Local Politics

Chatham commissioners oppose coal ash disposal plan

Posted December 17, 2014 4:14 p.m. EST
Updated December 17, 2014 6:08 p.m. EST

Coal ash

— The Chatham County Board of Commissioners unanimously adopted on Monday a resolution opposing Duke Energy’s plan to dispose of millions of tons of coal ash in former clay mines in Moncure and Sanford.

Duke officials last month filed plans with the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources to move about 3 million tons of ash from the Riverbend Steam Station in Mount Holly and L.V. Sutton Steam Electric Plant in Wilmington in the open-pit mines within 12 to 18 months.

Filling the clay mines, which were used by area brick manufacturers, with ash as "engineered structural fill" would help reclaim previously unusable land, according to Duke, which noted the clay also would provide an extra barrier to prevent any of the toxins in the ash from leaking into groundwater.

"The Board of Commissioners is aware that the state and Duke Energy are dealing with an environmental crisis that has been many decades in the making and requires urgent action, but it is our position that Chatham and Lee counties are being asked to assume a disproportionate risk in this current plan," Jim Crawford, chairman of the Chatham County Board of Commissioners, said in a statement.

Lee County officials also have balked at the plan, which would be carried out by contractor Charah Inc.

Crawford said Charah has said it doesn't plan to monitor the sites for any leaching of chemicals into groundwater beyond 30 years.

"The General Assembly, in its haste to prod Duke Energy to action, effectively stripped local authorities of any power to safeguard the health of our citizens," he said. "Neither can we collect fees to offset costs imposed on local governments. This is politically and economically unfair.”

Duke spokesman Jeff Brooks said the company respects the resolutions out of Chatham and Lee counties and plans to work with local officials as the coal ash removal projects proceed.

"We have operated our plants safely and reliably for nearly a hundred years. We will address the closure of these plants and any lined fill projects that support that closure in the same manner," Brooks said in an email.