Coal Ash

Tom Augspurger (l), USFWS, taking core sample during February 8th reconnaissance of Dan River coal ash spill.
Steve Alexander / USFWS

The federal, North Carolina and Virginia governments asked a court Thursday to declare the country's largest electricity company liable for environmental damage from a leak five years ago that left miles of a river shared by the two states coated in hazardous coal ash.

Town of Chapel Hill

A leaky roof, lack of space and aging infrastructure are just some of the problems plaguing the roughly 40-year-old building that houses the Chapel Hill Police Department.

Duke Energy
Duke Energy

A Duke University researcher says that Sutton Lake, near Wilmington, has been the site of numerous coal ash spills, both before and after Hurricane Florence.

A Duke Energy power plant and coal ash ponds outside Asheville.
Zen Sutherland / Flickr / www.flickr.com/photos/zen/1796555301/

North Carolina's environmental agency exceeded its authority by ordering Duke Energy Corp. to dig up all of its coal ash and move it from unlined storage sites where toxic chemicals have seeped into water supplies, the country's largest electric company said Friday.

A thin film of coal ash coats trees and vegetation in an inactive ash basin at the HF Lee plant. As expected, the area was flooded by Hurricane Florence.
c/o Duke Energy

The country's largest electric company says it's challenging an order by North Carolina's environmental agency to excavate coal ash from all of its power plant sites in the state.

Coal fired power plant
eutrophication&hypoxia via Flickr, Creative Commons

The state Department of Environmental Quality ordered Duke Energy to excavate six coal ash ponds last week. Duke wanted to leave the ash in place and cover it, which is a much cheaper solution. The energy company estimates it will cost an additional $4 to $5 billion to clean up these six sites.

A Duke Energy power plant and coal ash ponds outside Asheville.
Zen Sutherland / Flickr / www.flickr.com/photos/zen/1796555301/

Updated at 4:50 p.m.

Duke Energy Corp. has been ordered to excavate coal ash from all of its North Carolina power plant sites, slashing the risk of toxic chemicals leaking into water supplies but potentially adding billions of dollars to the costs consumers pay.

A picture of a coal ash pond.
Waterkeeper Alliance

How does coal ash impact human health? A new review of existing research shows a link between living close to a coal power plant or coal ash pond and higher risks of respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, as well as higher risks of premature mortality, lung cancer, infant mortality, and poor child health. The research does not draw a direct link between these conditions and coal ash. 

A map of Duke Energy's 14 coal ash sites and their operational status in 14 energy plants across the state.
Duke Energy

The North Carolina Utilities Commission will begin hearings on a rate hike request for one subsidiary of Duke Energy after recently approving a 6 percent increase for another.

The Dan River bank with residual dark grey coal ash.
Steven Alexander / USFWS

Duke Energy argued this week in hearings before the North Carolina Utilities Commission that the cost of cleaning up coal ash spills should be passed on to consumers. 

Duke Energy's coal-burning plant and the adjacent coal ash ponds by the Dan River.
Riverkeeper Foundation

Hearings continue this week in Duke Energy's request for a rate hike, and among the costs that the utility is trying to recover is nearly $2 million for bottled water it provides to homeowners near coal ash pits. 

Duke Energy's coal-burning plant and the adjacent coal ash ponds by the Dan River.
Riverkeeper Foundation

Updated 3:55 p.m. | Nov. 27, 2017

The country's largest electric company says charging North Carolina consumers the full, multi-billion-dollar cost of cleaning up coal ash dumps is comparable to tire stores charging customers an extra fee to dispose of an old set of radials.

What if a dam holding back coal ash burst at one of Duke Energy's coal plants in the Carolinas or Midwest? Newly released maps from Duke show many properties would be inundated, including some homes and docks. The maps are now public, after environmentalists threatened to sue. 

Duke Energy's coal-burning plant and the adjacent coal ash ponds by the Dan River.
Riverkeeper Foundation

Updated 10:28 a.m., Sept. 25

The country's largest electric company says it will publish federally mandated maps that it previously refused to publish, showing what could happen to neighboring properties if a coal-ash pit burst.

coal ash
Dave DeWitt / WUNC

The Environmental Protection Agency has announced it will reconsider safeguards the Obama Administration put in place to regulate coal ash disposal.

Sample products made using plastic and coal ash from ponds and landfills. Researchers at North Carolina A&T University have developed the composite building material and hope to eventually have it replace wood in some construction.
Courtesy of Kunigal Shivakumar

Researchers at North Carolina A&T University have developed a composite building material using plastic and coal ash from ponds and landfills.

Duke Energy's coal-burning plant and the adjacent coal ash ponds by the Dan River.
Riverkeeper Foundation

Duke Energy Corp. is giving notice it plans to seek electricity rate increases for another 2 million North Carolina customers.

Duke Energy's coal-burning plant and the adjacent coal ash ponds by the Dan River.
Riverkeeper Foundation

The nation's largest electric company wants regulators in North Carolina to force consumers to pay nearly $200 million a year to clean up the toxic byproducts of burning coal to generate power. That doesn't sit well with neighbors of the power plants who have been living on bottled water since toxic chemicals appeared in some of their wells.

A study shows potentially dangerous levels of Chromium-6 in wells across the state.
Kelly Stemcosky / Flickr Creative Commons

Researchers at Duke University have found widespread contamination of North Carolina well-water with hexavalent chromium. Researchers initially believed the cancer-causing toxin was coming from coal ash ponds. But Duke professor Avner Vengosh said his new study shows the dangerous compound is naturally occurring across the state.

The state epidemiologist in the division of public health resigned yesterday in protest over the McCrory administration’s handling of a controversy stemming from Duke Energy's handling of well water surrounding coal ash sites.

Image of bottled water provided by Duke Energy to families affected by the coal ash spill.
Dave DeWitt / WUNC

State toxicologist Ken Rudo testified that Governor Pat McCrory participated via phone in a meeting to draft letters to well owners downplaying the risk of coal ash contamination in their drinking water.

North Carolina legislative building
Dave DeWitt / WUNC

Lawmakers adjourned for the year early Saturday morning following a short session at the General Assembly marked with limited acrimony, plenty of debate over House Bill 2 and the departure of several long-serving members.

Photo: North Carolina's Old State Capitol building.
Soggy6 / Flickr

Lawmakers convened in Raleigh nearly a month ago for a short session to address the state's budget. But legislators have proposed measures on other items including bills on coal ash, light rail and sanctuary cities.

Also this week, Senator Fletcher Hartsell, a Republican from Concord, was indicted on charges of illegal campaign expenditures. The long-serving member in the Senate says he will not resign.

coal ash
Dave DeWitt / WUNC

Republican lawmakers and Governor Pat McCrory have reached a compromise over coal ash avoiding another round in the courts.

A picture of a coal ash pond.
Waterkeeper Alliance

State lawmakers are again wrangling with Governor Pat McCrory over coal ash cleanup.

The House has approved a bill reconstituting the coal ash management commission. Lawmakers organized this group once before. But McCrory sued fellow Republicans saying it usurped his power.

A picture of a coal ash pond.
Waterkeeper Alliance

Democrats in the state House and Senate want stricter regulations on vanadium and hexavalent chromium, also known as chromium-6.

coal ash
Dave DeWitt / WUNC

The Department of Environmental Quality has made significant changes to how Duke Energy may have to handle coal ash at its basins across the state.

DEQ released a final report that ranks all the state’s 33 coal ash basins by threat level. Unlike its previous draft report released last December, this one classifies all of the basins as either high or intermediate risk.

Tom Augspurger (l), USFWS, taking core sample during February 8th reconnaissance of Dan River coal ash spill.
Steve Alexander / USFWS

The state Department of Environmental Quality has issued a $6.6 million fine against Duke Energy for violations associated with the Dan River Coal Ash spill two years ago.

coal ash
Dave DeWitt / WUNC

February is a big month for Duke Energy to move coal ash out of its Dan River site.

With a new two-mile rail spur in place and machines moving material from large “ash stacks” – soil-covered mounds of coal ash - Duke Energy expects to double its current rate of progress.

Dan River
Steven Alexander, USFWS

An advisory board created by Duke Energy says nearly all of the company’s coal ash ponds in North Carolina can safely be capped in place.

The National Ash Management Advisory Board was created by Duke Energy a few months after the Dan River spill. It is made up of engineering faculty from across the country and executives from the private sector.

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