NC's coal ash problem much bigger than previously reported

The number of coal ash sites now tops one hundred:

More than 70 ash sites statewide hold about 11 million cubic yards of ash, much of it used in building roads, parking lots and other projects. But nearly a quarter of the waste sits at six of the largest sites, where about 2.6 million cubic yards of coal ash lies in unlined pits, largely unmonitored for potential groundwater contamination.

Over the years the sites have been cited by the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources with violations for creating dust clouds, for being placed too close to water sources, and for ash erosion into water drainage areas. At one site the ash was dumped into a wetland area. "When they said they had an end use, they didn't have an end use --- it was a form of disposal," said Ellen Lorschneider, planning and programs branch head of the solid waste section within DENR. "There was abuse of our regulations --- the coal was a disposal site they called structural fill."

I'm sure this suited Duke Energy just fine. Get some private business to come and take both the ash and the responsibility associated with the toxic mess. Just one more (very good) reason for the EPA to classify coal ash as hazardous waste. Until they do, or until NC passes some decent regulations, this will continue:

A Nash County site called Swift Creek has caused the most chronic environmental headaches. It accepted coal ash for more than a decade through 2003 and resulted in contamination of lead, arsenic and sulfates in shallow groundwater, a problem still awaiting a solution.

DENR on May 16 gave the site's operators 90 days to come up with groundwater corrective measures. The agency first cited Swift Creek for violations back in 2002.

The ash at Swift Creek came from Cogentrix, a Charlotte energy company that operated small coal-burning power plants throughout North Carolina. The Cogentrix power plants sold electricity to large utility companies for years, but Cogentrix has since sold off the plants, and some have been converted to other fuel sources.

When it owned the plants, Cogentrix had the ash hauled away and has washed its hands of any liability.

"The transfer of responsibility would take place when the materials go into the contractor's vehicle," said Cogentrix spokesman Jeff Freeman. "We're out of it completely."

So much for "personal responsibility" and the "benign hand of the free market." Regardless of whoever hauled the ash away from these sites, the companies who burned the coal in the first place should be required to clean these sites up.


And why did it take this long

for the information/story of the additional coal ash sites to be exposed? I'm sure dozens of people in and outside DENR were aware of these dumps, and the news has been full of the "33 coal ash sites statewide" observations. Somebody's been holding back.

Not to worry

John Skvarla is on it. I'm sure he can find a rug big enough to sweep all this under.

Duke tried to pawn some coal ash

onto Charlotte Douglas Airport and they said, "No, thanks!"

Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.

The airport

Hmm ... I wonder if the legislature's fascination with taking control of the Charlotte airport away from the city had anything to do with their decision to tell Duke Energy to stick their coal ash somewhere else.


....very interesting question.