Monday, June 24, 2024

Duke Energy to begin removing coal ash from Sutton in 2015

One of two coal ash ponds at the Sutton site, where vegetation has grown naturally on parts of the dried-out pond.
One of two coal ash ponds at the Sutton Plant, where vegetation has grown naturally on parts of the dried-out pond. The plant’s retired smokestacks are visible in the distance. File photo.

Duke Energy has announced it will begin removing coal ash from four its power plants in North Carolina, including the Sutton Plant across the river from Wilmington.

The removals are part of a plan to permanently close coal ash basins at those sites by Aug. 1, 2019, in accordance with North Carolina’s recently adopted Coal Ash Management Act. The company said in a release it has submitted excavation plans to the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources for coal ash stored at Sutton and at plants in Asheville, Eden and Mount Holly.

Those plants are considered high-priority in the state’s efforts to address coal ash storage, following a spill near Eden earlier this year that dumped as much as 39,000 tons of coal ash into the Dan River. The excavation plans for those sites were due this month.

Related story: Excavation plans for coal ash cleanup at Sutton, other sites, required by state

Coal ash is no longer added to the ponds, as the coal-fired plant at Sutton has been replaced with a natural gas-powered facility.
Coal ash is no longer added to the ponds at Sutton, as the coal-fired plant has been replaced with a natural gas-powered facility. File photo.

The excavation plans are specific to each site and are described as a phased approach to removing and storing coal ash—the remnants of fuel burned in coal-fired power plants. Sutton transitioned from coal to natural gas late last year, but environmental groups have continued calling on the company to address the two coal ash basins there, situated along a bank of the Cape Fear River.

For Sutton, the plans call for removing 7.2 million tons of on-site ash, 2 million of which would be moved in the first phase to lined structural landfills to be built at the Brickhaven Mine in Moncure and the Sanford Mine in Sanford. The ash would be transported by rail, with the first phase lasting 12 months once permits and final approvals are received from the state.

The release from Duke includes comments from president and CEO Lynn Good, who is quoted as saying: “This milestone reflects Duke Energy’s commitment to moving forward as quickly as practicable in a safe and environmentally sound way to address the enormous task of long-term coal ash storage in North Carolina.

“We are devoted to being good neighbors to the communities we serve and good custodians of our shared environment,” Good said.

The full release can be viewed on Duke’s website.

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