Coal Ash Wednesday: Duke would cap the #2 worst contaminating site in the nation


Their judgment simply cannot be trusted:

A new environmental report points to a threat to ground water in 39 states, including a local facility as the second worst in the nation. The report confirms the worries people living near Duke Energy's Allen Steam Station have been concerned about for years.

The report claims coal ash dumps in Belmont are leaking cobalt into groundwater, more than 500 times above safe levels, along with other pollutants. Exposure to cobalt can cause thyroid damage.

It can also lead to cardiomyopathy and blood thickening, which are even worse than they sound. Throw Arsenic into that cocktail, and you've got a drink that's definitely not recommended by doctors. But the real moral to this story: This is one of the sites that Duke Energy has decided could be capped in place safely, and is now suing DEQ to block its ruling to excavate it. From the report itself:

The Allen Steam Station, owned and operated by Duke Energy, is located in Belmont, North Carolina on the banks of the Catawba River (Lake Wylie). Duke monitors groundwater around three coal ash units at the site, the “Active Ash Basin,” the “Retired Ash Basin,” and the “Retired Ash Basin Landfill.” The highest levels of contamination are found on the northern edge of the retired ash basin. Duke has initiated assessment monitoring for all three units, and in December 2018, Duke acknowledged that the groundwater exceeds groundwater protection standards for arsenic, beryllium, cadmium, cobalt, lithium, and thallium.

The coal ash at Allen is saturated with groundwater, yet Duke is planning to close the ash units in place, leaving at least 13 million cubic yards of ash right where it sits today. Duke cannot restore local groundwater and surface water quality unless it excavates the ash and moves it to lined, dry storage, elevated above groundwater and away from the river.

On a separate but definitely related front, AG Josh Stein is headed to the NC Supreme Court to keep Duke from charging customers for coal ash cleanup:

“Duke Energy knew for many years that the way it handled coal ash was risky and could pollute groundwater, but it failed to act prudently when it should have. And now, Duke argues that the people of North Carolina should pay the full cost of cleaning up coal ash. I disagree with the Utilities Commission’s decision and am challenging it in the North Carolina Supreme Court because I believe that Duke’s shareholders should have to pay their fair share of the total cost.

“The Utilities Commission’s decision also allows Duke Energy to raise customers’ rates so that Duke can earn a profit on the cost of cleaning up the coal ash mess. That is also unfair and unacceptable.”

I second that emotion.