Duke Energy begins removing coal ash from Sutton Plant

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Truck being inspected and weighed before departing Sutton for Brickhaven Mine. Photo courtesy of Duke Energy.
Truck being inspected and weighed before departing Sutton for Brickhaven Mine. Photo courtesy of Duke Energy.

About a month after reaching a settlement with the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, Duke Energy has begun removing coal ash from the company’s Sutton Plant in the northwestern part of the city.

According to Jeff Brooks, a spokesperson for Duke Energy, the coal ash is being taken by truck from the Sutton Plant to the Brickhaven mine engineered structural fill project in Chatham County. Once a rail spur is completed to the plant, the ash will be transported mostly by rail.

Currently there are about five trucks, each carrying 16 to 18 tons of coal ash, making daily trips. Later this month, the number of trucks is expected to go up to about 13 to 15. The trucks, which are lined and covered as safety measures, are washed and inspected before leaving the Sutton Plant and tracked with a GPS device to make sure they stay on track and maintain safety.

The coal ash will be stored as dry material in the Brickhaven clay mine, which has been lined with both natural and synthetic layers of material to contain the ash properly. Any moisture that results from the ash will be treated by a wastewater treatment facility, and groundwater around the site will be closely monitored.

The Sutton Plant will also eventually have a fully lined onsite landfill. Construction on the project, which is being built to keep the majority of the ash generated by the plant on the property but away from public waters, will begin in the next few months.

Duke Energy is also moving coal ash from other plants around the state, including ones in Asheville, Mooresboro and Mt. Holly.

The moving of the coal ash from the plants to other sites is a result of Duke Energy getting fined in March by the state’s Department of Environmental Quality (then known as the Department of Environmental and Natural Resources) for contaminating the groundwater around the Sutton Plant. The initial fine was $25 million, which Duke appealed. They eventually settled with the state for $20 million in September.

Click here to see a video of the ash excavation beginning at the Sutton Plant.