Saturday, November 29, 2014

Coal Ash Contamination in the Works

We do have 27 coal ash ponds in North Carolina, and one near us in Southeast Chatham is being channeled into the Cape Fear River above the Sanford water intake, below Moncure, and all of them are leaking.  But more

Coal Ash Contamination is in the Works

We here in central North Carolina learned about ten days ago that our state government, in its bill to “clean up” coal ash waste at sites around the state, is allowing Duke Energy, our only electric company, to dispose of their coal ash wherever they want as long as the Department of Environment and Natural Resources allows it.

They don’t have to get permission from counties, cities, or any local jurisdictions.  So Duke Energy is planning to ship, by rail and truck, 12 million tons of extremely toxic coal ash from a Charlotte generating plant to sites where clay was once dug for brick-making in Southeast Chatham (Brickhaven) and Lee County (near Sanford).

Fortunately one of our environmental organizations, Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, has issued a report on why we shouldn’t be dumping or even moving coal ash.  You may contact  Or check out their website:  They can send you the report as a PDF.  This report was issued March 24, 2014.  BREDL points out that the only safe way to deal with this waste with its heavy metals (chromium, iron, lead, manganese, silver, sulfate, among others) and its radioactivity is to covert it to salt stone and store it on the site where it was generated in concrete bunkers.  Additionally they point out:

If the ash is moved to an off-site facility which accepts waste from other places Duke’s liability for this highly toxic waste stream will be diluted.

Most commercial landfills already operating in NC and new proposed landfill sites are in primarily African American neighborhoods.  Who will be the recipients of this toxic waste?

Landfills leak.  The Federal Register reported in 1988, p. 33345: “First, even the best liner and leachate collection systems will ultimately fail due to natural deterioration.” 

Coal ash belongs to Duke Energy today, tomorrow, and forever. Duke shouldn’t be able to pass that liability onto our communities.


I’ve been making up other words for Duke Energy, our big electric company which lies to us and wants to dump hazardous waste where we live: Dump Exterminate, and for our state environmental safety agency, DENR, which no longer protects us, our environment, or our natural resources: Department of Energy with No Restrictions.


Here’s the letter I sent to Governor McCrory today.  He’s all for how callously our state treats its citizens and has close connections with Duke Energy, so-called.

Dear Governor McCrory:

I wonder how future generations will look back on your governorship.  Do you think about it?  I think you will be remembered for setting North Carolina back fifty years, for enabling more pollution than ever before between fracking and having coal ash shipped around the state instead of following the safest way, of converting it to salt stone and storing in on the site where it was generated in large concrete bunkers so that it can’t pollute water, air, or  land.  You will be remembered for bringing back large-scale discrimination against African Americans in the arenas of voting, health care, and unemployment.  You were determined that North Carolina would have fracking which is notoriously unsafe for human beings.  You were all for the corporations and the rich people and forgot 99% of your citizens in order to give corporations free rein to pollute and the 1% of our wealthiest citizens the most tax breaks.  

You set off a huge Morale Monday series of protests, but you couldn’t be bothered to concern yourself with why teachers, people on unemployment, and people trying to take care of the environment here in North Carolina should be concerned.  It’s a puzzle to me why you were elected and why so many of your Republican allies were also given so much power by voters who are bound to suffer, as well as their children, for decades.  It’s not too late to think seriously of how you want to be remembered.  

I write as a concerned citizen of Southeast Chatham about Duke Energy’s plan to dump coal ash waste from their Charlotte area plant into the old clay pits near brick factories in Brickhaven and near Sanford.  Already we learned last spring that all the coal ash ponds in North Carolina are leaking, but the N.C. Legislature did not put pressure on the company to clean it up quickly nor did they require them to pay for the clean-up.  Instead their customers all over North Carolina will be paying.  In fact, the legislature, with your agreement, set it up so the local jurisdictions could be ignored and the public not informed of their plans to bring this extremely toxic waste into Chatham and Lee Counties.  

The Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League has published a report on why coal ash waste should not be transported or put into any kind of landfill.  This waste from coal-burning is extremely toxic, with heavy metals and radioactive material.  The safest method is to convert it to salt stone and store it in large concrete bunkers on the site where it was generated.  Duke Energy should be responsible for disposing of it in the safest way.  All landfills leak eventually, which has been documented over and over.  This ash needs to be isolated from surface water, groundwater, and airborne dispersion.  You, as the leader of our state government, now permit the dumping of waste like this without asking permission from the local jurisdictions.  The corporations can go straight to the Dept of Environment and Natural Resources, lately not very reliable (e.g., they didn’t stop the fracking, which is also dangerous to the environment and to our health), and skip any public, county, or town input.  

In short Duke Energy has a “get out of jail free” card to pollute the Cape Fear River as much as they want and endanger the lives of our Chatham and Lee County families.  Southeast Chatham gets its water from Sanford.  Apparently, Duke Energy is eager to demonstrate that they are not the good neighbors they’d like us to believe they are.  If they claim this process is safe, you will know they’re lying.  Again.  You, as well as the state legislature and DENR seem eager to demonstrate that you care nothing for people who live near where extremely hazardous waste is stored or might be generated from coal ash dumping or fracking.

Judy Hogan

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