WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- Since the spill in the Dan River, coal ash has been a hot topic. This has folks asking a few questions about the coal ash in our own backyard. Duke Energy Progress is trying to answer some questions.
"In light of Dan River, we've taken a fresh look at all our sites," Duke Energy spokesman Jeff Brooks said.
Duke Energy commissioned a third-party review to look at potential risks. They are also developing a long-term strategy for all ash ponds in the state, including at the retired coal-fired Sutton Steam Plant near Wilmington.
"If you think about it, the most aggressive timelines call for those plants to be excavated in five years," Brooks said.
That's what new legislation is pushing for, but Duke Energy says it might be too fast. The company is worried about rushing the process and missing opportunities for efficient disposal. Duke Energy reps say this timeline ultimately comes down to how plants are classified. Until then, they are deciding on how to take care of the ash. Options include taking it to a lined landfill, reusing it or capping it with proper close methods.
"But we have to make sure we're making the right choice for Sutton and not just one size fits all, and that takes time, that takes science and that takes study," Brooks said.
Coal ash contains contaminants known to cause cancer. This is raising the most questions about the selenium levels in Sutton Lake. While the toxin levels in the lake are elevated compared to the Cape Fear River, they still meet standards based upon the usage for the pond, because of that testing they're taking extra precaution for residents nearby.
"We don't know if that ground water will migrate to the Flemington community, but in some of the monitoring wells we saw we did see some elevation," Brooks said. "So Duke Energy proactively took the step to work with the utility, the public authority to build a water line."