Lee commissioners support coal ash resolution - except one

Posted January 5, 2015

— Weeks of complaining from Lee County residents led county commissioners on Monday to pass a resolution to fight Duke Energy’s plan to dump coal ash in Sanford.

Every commissioner voted for the resolution – except Kirk Smith.

He said the dangers of coal ash are overblown, using the Dan River spill as an example.

“All the water systems down river did not close down,” he said. “They have not noticed any increases in the heavy metals attributed to coal ash.”

Smith said coal ash is coming to Lee County one way or another, so instead of a resolution, it may be time to make a deal.

"Tone it down and compensate us for being a dump site, or as they call it, a reclamation site," he said.

Duke Energy plans to take about 3 million tons of coal ash from the Riverbend Steam Station in Mount Holly and L.V. Sutton Steam Electric Plant in Wilmington and dump them in open-pit clay mines in Sanford and Moncure as "engineered structural fill." The mines, which have been used by brick manufacturers, have layers of impervious clay that add environmental protections to the synthetic liner Duke plans to install, company officials said.

Filling the clay mines with ash will help reclaim previously unusable land and will allow faster action than trying to site a new landfill, Duke Energy officials said, adding that proximity to rail lines will allow the company to minimize the use to trucks to move the ash.

In multiple meetings, residents said they’re worried about possible soil, air and water contamination. Not one resident has spoken in favor of the plan.

In a statement, a Duke Energy spokesperson said the company will address residents' concerns.

Board of Commissioners Chairwoman Amy Dalrymple said the plan came together without the county's consent.

Chatham County commissioners passed a similar resolution against the plan in December.


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  • disgusted2010 Jan 6, 2015

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    Would you feel the same way if it were next to your house?

  • miseem Jan 6, 2015

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    Some coal ash in NC is. But my understanding is that after the ash has been mixed with water in a pond, it is no longer suitable for use in construction material.

  • Christopher Rose Jan 6, 2015
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    Hey I'm all for this! Lee County politicians are the ones pushing fracking on the rest of us. It's almost kind of ironic how now they are opposed to pollution. But only when they won't make money from it.

  • arfamr1010 Jan 6, 2015

    this is a great plan. Lee county needs to make the deal such that the areas are turned into public parks complete with trails and playugrounds for kids. As long as the ash is properly capped, it will not pose any threat to anyone enjoying the new recreation areas.

  • cruzinlong Jan 6, 2015

    the worst part of it I think is the EPA recently classifying Coal ash as household waste which means liners are not needed, at the very least heavy duty reliable liners SHOULD be used with this stuff, environmental damage proves the such.

  • Rebelyell55 Jan 6, 2015

    Sadly Mr. Smith may have a point, the money would be wasted since this will happen with the new laws in effect. Best to make the best deal possible. Like let them use the pit, but for the removal of the coal ash near Lee Co. water sources like the pit that Duke was pumping water off of near the Cape Fear river. Get a deal like that would be of benefit to the citizens of Lee Co. Not letting them dump ash from some other place far away.

  • 68_dodge_polara Jan 6, 2015

    This stuff isn't even comparable to the toxitcity of those Fluorescent light bulbs we are now forced to have in our homes now that incandescent bulbs have been outlawed.

  • Inter Alios Jan 6, 2015

    Mr. Smith is seldom right on anything. If coal ash is not dangerous, why wouldn't they just leave it right where it is?

  • Matt Wood Jan 6, 2015
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    View quoted thread

    I agree, the old clay mines seem to be the perfect place to dispose of it. Though, I still don't see why they're not recycling it into bricks like some other states do.

  • Grand Union Jan 6, 2015

    Mr Smith is right on this. In a properly lined and covered pit it will be fine and its a lot better than in a pond next to a river.
    Lee should hold out for decent compensation and for ALL the ash to be moved by rail to avoid the road damage and traffic if its trucked.