Coal ash receives unwanted welcome in Chatham County
Posted April 16, 2015
Pittsboro, N.C. — There was another community coal ash meeting Thursday night.
Just like the previous ones, the message from residents was clear.
“Our concerns include, of course, surface and ground water, but also public health and safety and the destruction of wildlife and the environment,” said Elaine Chiosso, the Haw Riverkeeper.
Residents and environmentalists gathered in Chatham County Thursday evening to voice their displeasure of an effort by Duke Energy to obtain permits to use abandoned clay mines in Chatham and Lee counties to dump about 20 million tons of coal ash.
The state Department of Environment and Natural Resources organized the public hearing, which they will use as part of the permit process.
“The local people may have local knowledge that we could use,” said Susan Massengale, DENR spokeswoman.
Lee County commissioners passed a resolution in January to fight Duke Energy’s plan, weeks after residents complained in multiple community meetings.
Duke Energy was charged in February with nine counts of violating the federal Clean Water Act in connection with the handling of coal ash at its North Carolina power plants, including one that spilled tons of ash into the Dan River last year.
The Charlotte-based utility said it has agreed to pay $68 million in fines and restitution and another $34 million in mitigation costs and community service efforts to settle the case. The agreement must be approved by a federal judge.
On Thursday, the singing grannies had a tune for other Duke Energy ash ponds.
“The liners will leak in a matter of time and how will you handle that new coal ash slime,” they sang.
Duke Energy spokesperson Jeff Brooks had an answer, but not in song.
“That mine will be lined with multiple layers of protection and once the material has been filled in there, another layer on top will be added, as well as another layer of soil and grass,” he said.
Residents said the extra protection won't be enough to change their minds.
“We need to stop coal ash in its tracks to preserve Lee and Chatham for the future,” resident John Cross said.
Residents have until May 16 to voice their concerns to DENR. The agency then has 60 days to decide whether to grant Duke Energy's permits.