DEQ RELEASES COAL ASH CLASSIFICATIONS, INITIALLY CALLS FOR CLEANUPS STATEWIDE
HOWEVER, ASKS FOR GENERAL ASSEMBLY TO RE-EVALUATE CLASSIFICATIONS IN 18 MONTHS
(Charlotte, N.C.) Today, the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) released its final proposed risk classifications for the state's coal ash ponds. In addition to the four sites classified as 'HIGH RISK' under the 2014 Coal Ash Management Act (CAMA), the state classified the remaining 10 sites as 'INTERMEDIATE RISK,' which requires that they be cleaned up (excavated) by 2024. However, DEQ also requested that the General Assembly re-evaluate classifications in 18 months. Sites around Charlotte include Allen (Lake Wylie on the Catawba River), Marshall (Lake Norman on the Catawba River), Buck (Yadkin River) and Cliffside (recently renamed Rogers Energy Complex; Broad River).
"The listing of all sites as 'HIGH' or 'INTERMEDIATE RISK' acknowledges that these sites are major threats to citizens and the environment," said Catawba Riverkeeper Sam Perkins. "But even in the face of overwhelming public and scientific input demonstrating the needs for cleanups, DEQ has the audacity to essentially ask for a change to CAMA, which had required that plans for these sites be finalized by today so that we can begin to move on from this issue. The fact that Duke Energy has allowed these ponds to fall into such disrepair justifies the need to clean up these sites as opposed to leaving them for Duke to have to manage, which it has demonstrated it cannot sufficiently do."
"This cannot continue to drag on. This issue is directly affecting hundreds of people around the state who have been living on bottled water for more than a year. Furthermore, leaving these ponds in place continues to threaten the drinking water supplies of millions. Engineers and PhDs have reviewed studies of the sites and determined the sites have too many problems to be left in place. Why can't we get a simple commitment to a cleanup?"
In the draft proposed risk classifications, Allen (Lake Wylie), Marshall (Lake Norman) and three other sites had been classified as 'LOW-TO-INTERMEDIATE RISK,' meaning DEQ wanted additional information and public input before the final classifications. After public comments and hearings, today's final classifications are an improvement over the draft classifications, but they are in all practicality the same as DEQ continues to ask for more time despite clear scientific analysis necessitating cleanup.
"The state has purportedly wanted to provide clarity and certainty on this issue, but today's classifications contain such an asterisk that it provides anything but that. As we have seen throughout South Carolina, we know that excavation is a viable, proven solution to cleaning up water contamination and mitigating threats from these old, unlined sites propped high on the banks of our drinking water reservoirs."
Duke Energy has submitted to DEQ a study on the feasibility of supplying permanent alternative water to citizens with contaminated well water near coal ash ponds. That study was not provided with the press release.
The Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation remains active in state court with Duke Energy for its coal ash at Allen and Marshall. CRF is represented by Southern Environmental Law Center.