Coal ash meeting held in Gaston County

A final meeting is held to discuss plans to close Duke Energy’s coal ash ponds – but Duke is missing its deadline.

State officials still haven’t given the stamp of approval for the cleanup.

The DEQ said they’re still waiting on important documents from Duke Energy before approving the plans. The Riverbend Steam Station in Gaston County is one of four coal ash ponds considered high priority across the state that Duke Energy is required to close by 2019.

For more than two years, Duke Energy has been working to close the coal ash pond at the Riverbend Steam Station. So far, more than one million tons of ash has been removed. But it hasn’t come without problems.

This past summer, arsenic levels in a cove on Mountain Island Lake were the highest in more than a decade. The source was traced back to the drainage of the coal ash pond at Riverbend. Officials said the water was still safe to drink.

But to this day, people living within a half mile of the Duke Energy Plant are still being offered a public water supply or bottled water.

At a meeting Thursday night, one Duke Energy customer raised his concerns that contamination could happen again, after he read Duke Energy’s closure plans.

“The engineer notes that the intermediate dam that was constructed between the primary dam could breach due to the foundation dam being susceptible to liquefaction,” he noted.

Concerns have also been raised by the Department of Environmental Equality who said the initial plans submitted are deficient.

“What we deemed them is incomplete for several reasons. The reasons are they didn’t submit cost, they didn’t submit a schedule,” North Carolina DEQ Marla Sink said.  

Officials also said two years of data is missing from the report. In a statement Duke Energy said, “We’re committed to closing ash basins in a way that puts safety first, protects the environment, minimizes impact to communities and manage costs.”

Duke Energy has until the beginning of April to submit new plans to the state DEQ. The coal ash pond in Gaston County needs to be closed by December 31, 2019.