Duke Energy proposes plan to keep coal ash in lined landfill at Sutton Plant

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Duke Energy says a proposed plan will keep more than five million tons of coal ash at the Sutton Plant location; about two million tons are still planning to be moved out of the area.

In a news release issued Wednesday morning, officials say the plan is to keep the millions of tons of coal ash in a lined landfill near the Sutton Lake. They say about 7.2 million tons of coal ash are currently stored in basins and other storage areas at the plant off of Highway 421 in New Hanover County. Two million tons of that coal ash will be moved to a clay mine in Chatham County; that plan was announced in November of 2014. Officials say some of that coal ash could be delivered to the mine by this fall.

“We must begin moving coal ash as soon as possible in order to comply with the strict timelines laid out in state law,” said John Elnitsky, Duke Energy senior vice president of ash basin strategy. “That’s why the Chatham County mine project is such an important part of our strategy for the Sutton Plant. We are in discussions with Chatham County leaders now and hope to begin delivering ash to this project soon, even as we develop an on-site landfill for Sutton.”

The plant ceased coal operations in 2013. Officials say the first of the landfill permits will be submitted in May. Construction of the landfill could begin in early 2016, if approved.

“Our preference is to store coal ash at or near our plant sites, when possible,” said Elnitsky. “Siting these landfills on plant property minimizes impacts to the local community while maximizing the safe and efficient storage of coal ash at these locations.”

Some local environmentalists still have concerns about the plans. Mike Giles with the NC Coastal Confederation said in a statement “The coal ash needs to be moved away from the river, away from the rising sea levels, away from coastal flooding and storms, and most importantly away from the groundwater aquifers this region depends upon for clean and safe drinking water that Duke’s coal ash plant has been poisoning for years.”

Duke Energy spokesman Jeff Brooks said that landfills will feature technology to fully contain the coal ash.

Categories: New Hanover, News

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