Lee commissioners support coal ash resolution - except one

Posted January 5, 2015 10:00 p.m. EST

— 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.