The N.C. Department of Environmental Quality ordered Duke Energy on Monday to excavate several million tons of coal ash from six of its facilities.
The facilities — including Allen, Belews, Cliffside/Rogers, Marshall, Mayo and Roxboro — must be excavated of coal ash, which will then be disposed of in a lined landfill. Duke Energy has until Aug. 1 to submit finalized excavation closure plans.
The ash from Duke Energy’s coal-fired power plants has been stored in open, unlined ponds with water for decades, and concerns over the potential for water contamination has led to lawsuits and community activism across the state.
A statement from the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign said the chemicals in coal ash can lead to cancer, heart disease and stroke, and brain damage in children.
The ponds were originally classified as low-risk in a November DEQ decision, meaning Duke Energy could only drain and cap — or partially cap — the ponds. Despite these proposals, the DEQ ordered Duke Energy to fully excavate the coal ash.