Safe Basin Closure Update: Duke Energy proposes full excavation of 12 additional coal ash basins in North Carolina
- Independent experts help Duke Energy engineers, scientists identify safe, practical solutions to close basins
- Enhanced programs to protect groundwater, surface water
- Plans comply with North Carolina Coal Ash Management Act and new federal regulations; are subject to regulatory approval
Jun 23, 2015, 08:00 ET
CHARLOTTE, N.C., June 23, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- Building on the momentum of coal ash excavation work already underway at several Carolinas sites, Duke Energy today recommended full excavation of an additional 12 coal ash basins in North Carolina.
The material would be safely reused in lined structural fills or permanently disposed in lined landfills.
Today's announcement brings to 24 the total number of Carolinas basins the company is prepared to close by removing ash from its current storage locations at each power plant.
The company recommends excavating five basins at the Cape Fear Plant (Moncure, N.C.), five basins at H.F. Lee Plant (Goldsboro, N.C.), one basin at W.H. Weatherspoon Plant (Lumberton, N.C.), and one inactive basin at the Cliffside Steam Station (Mooresboro, N.C.).
The majority of the excavated ash announced today would be relocated to previously discussed lined structural fills in Chatham and Lee counties in North Carolina. Ash basin quantities and destinations — www.duke-energy.com/pdfs/safe-basin-closure-progress.pdf.
"We're making strong progress to protect groundwater and close ash basins, delivering on our commitment to safe, sustainable, long-term solutions," said Lynn Good, Duke Energy's president and chief executive officer.
"A blue ribbon national advisory board and independent engineers, scientists, and dedicated teams at Duke Energy are spending thousands of hours studying data, building enhanced groundwater and surface water protection programs, and identifying closure options that protect people and the environment in a cost-effective manner," Good said.
The company is continuing to study the remaining 12 basins in North Carolina to identify smart and effective ways to close those facilities, while minimizing overall environmental impact.
Based on engineering work completed to date, the remaining 12 basins could be candidates for a broader range of closure options, including an approach that consolidates the ash on site, caps it with a durable and impermeable liner, and protects groundwater.
However, work continues to inform those decisions, including comprehensive groundwater assessments, groundwater modeling and other site-specific engineering.
State and federal coal ash regulations allow a variety of proven closure options based on each site's specific circumstances. Today's progress report comes after extensive study to ensure that the recommendations comply with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's recently published federal Coal Combustion Residual (CCR) regulations and North Carolina's Coal Ash Management Act (CAMA).
The proposals are subject to public input and approval by the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the North Carolina Coal Ash Management Commission.
Grounded in science, engineering
Coal ash is produced when naturally occurring coal is burned to generate electricity that powers homes, businesses and communities.
Since last October, a blue ribbon panel of international experts interested in safe and practical solutions for the disposal of coal ash has been reviewing the company's strategy and technical approach to closing ash basins.
The National Ash Management Advisory Board (NAMAB) is led by Dr. John Daniels, P.E., a former program director at the U.S. National Science Foundation and current professor and chair of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.
Working with Duke Energy engineers and scientists, NAMAB developed a set of guiding principles for safe basin closure — www.duke-energy.com/pdfs/GuidingPrinciplesForClosureFactsheet.pdf.
These principles provide a sustainable framework for promoting recycling, protecting groundwater and minimizing impacts to local communities and the environment, while anticipating major storms, flooding and even seismic events.
Technical or regulatory reasons led the company to recommend full excavation for 24 basins in the Carolinas thus far. These facilities are operating safely today but are not suitable locations for the material long-term.
"While conditions at each site are unique, our board has established a common set of principles for Duke Energy to apply to each closure option, ensuring compliance with state and federal laws," Daniels said. "We fully support this science- and engineering-based approach."
The company's approved plans and the latest recommendations for each ash basin in the Carolinas include:
- Continued excavation of coal ash at W.S. Lee Steam Station (Belton, S.C.), Riverbend Steam Station (Mt. Holly, N.C.), and the Asheville (N.C.) Electric Generating Plant.
- Already planned excavation of coal ash at the Dan River Steam Station (Eden, N.C.), L.V. Sutton Steam Electric Plant (Wilmington, N.C.), and H.B. Robinson Plant (Hartsville, S.C.).
- Recommended coal ash excavation at the Cape Fear Plant (Moncure, N.C.), H.F. Lee Plant (Goldsboro, N.C.), W.H. Weatherspoon Plant (Lumberton, N.C.), and one basin at the Cliffside Steam Station (Mooresboro, N.C.).
- Continued study to determine the best options for Allen Steam Station (Belmont, N.C.), Belews Creek Steam Station (Belews Creek, N.C.), Buck Steam Station (Salisbury, N.C.), two basins at the Cliffside Steam Station (Mooresboro, N.C.), Marshall Steam Station (Terrell, N.C.), Mayo Plant (Roxboro, N.C.), and the Roxboro Plant (Semora, N.C.).
Depending on how quickly plans are reviewed and approved, Duke Energy is confident it can comply with North Carolina's deadlines to have all basins in the state safely closed by 2029. Individual basin closure timelines will be determined by the state's classification process and other factors.
Protecting groundwater and surface water
In parallel with the work outlined above, the company also plans to add interim measures to further protect groundwater and surface water as needed before basins are closed, including:
- Capturing engineered seeps and rerouting the water back to the ash basins or other treatment systems, eliminating the flows. Seeps are common in earthen dams and do not affect water quality in nearby lakes or rivers. This work should be complete in the next six to 12 months.
- Developing engineering plans to address groundwater exceedances. The company will use the results of comprehensive site assessments to develop plans to remove water from basins and remediate groundwater to the extent needed.
Work will be prioritized based on the unique conditions at each facility and basin closure schedules.
"Once the assessments have been completed, well established engineering solutions can be deployed as needed to enhance groundwater protection," said Dr. Daniels. "Moving forward, NAMAB will be independently reviewing the data and advocating for state-of-the-art closure plans that maximize beneficial use. The scale, scope and aggressive schedule of closure efforts that Duke Energy is undertaking allow these principles to serve as a guide for the entire industry."
Video sound bites of Duke Energy CEO Lynn Good discussing today's announcement: www.duke-energy.com/SafeBasinClosure. Link also contains b-roll, graphics and other ash-related resources.
About Duke Energy
Duke Energy is the largest electric power holding company in the United States with approximately $121 billion in total assets. Its regulated utility operations serve approximately 7.3 million electric customers located in six states in the Southeast and Midwest.
Its commercial power and international energy business segments own and operate diverse power generation assets in North America and Latin America, including a growing portfolio of renewable energy assets in the United States.
Headquartered in Charlotte, N.C., Duke Energy is a Fortune 250 company traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol DUK. More information about the company is available at www.duke-energy.com.
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