RALEIGH, N.C. (AP/WBTW) – The country’s largest electric company is being 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 power bills.
North Carolina’s environmental agency said Monday it has decided Duke Energy Corp. must remove the residue left after decades of burning coal from six remaining sites.
The company had wanted to cover some storage pits with a waterproof cap, saying that would prevent rain from passing through the pits and carrying chemicals like mercury and arsenic through the unlined bottoms.
Cleanup became a priority after a 2014 leak from a Duke Energy site left coal ash coating 70 miles (110 kilometers) of the Dan River on the North Carolina-Virginia border.
Governor Roy Cooper released a statement in a press release on Monday, saying:
“This is a strong order that follows the science and prioritizes clean water and public health. We’ve seen the damage this pollution can do including the families who had to live for years on bottled water until we were able to get them connected to permanent water solutions. Now the cleanup of remaining coal ash needs to move ahead efficiently and effectively.“