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EPA's waste designation of coal ash -- years in the making -- allows state/utility oversight, leaving coal ash in place and using ash as unlined structural fill.


Coal ash at Allen Steam Station on Lake Wylie (Catawba River)

For Immediate Release: December 19, 2014

(Charlotte, NC) Friday afternoon, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) released a rule giving coal ash a waste designation under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). However, the rule fails to implement provisions needed to protect people and waterways.

“While the EPA is finally establishing a floor in terms of minimum federal coal ash regulations, the floor is much too low and has too many holes,” says Catawba Riverkeeper Sam Perkins. “The rule leaves too much oversight to the utilities and the state, which for decades have demonstrated that with the onus on them, they cannot and will not do enough.”

Under RCRA, waste deemed hazardous is regulated under Subtitle C, while waste deemed non-hazardous – like household trash – is regulated under Subtitle D. However, coal ash had never been given any designation until environmental groups sued the EPA to force a designation, which had to be made by today, according to a court ruling. Coal ash will be regulated like a Subtitle D waste.

“We have had disasters at Kingston, Tennessee, in 2008 and at Dan River, North Carolina, this year. We have seen from countless seeps and from Duke Energy’s own monitoring wells that all 14 unlined sites in North Carolina are leaking high levels of toxic metals. Given the situation, we really hoped that the EPA would have realized that coal ash cannot be left in place and cannot be used as unlined structural fill. We were let down.”

The Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation has lawsuits against Duke Energy for contamination at the three coal ash sites along a 29-mile span of the Catawba River around Charlotte. Those sites are Marshall (Lake Norman), Riverbend (Mountain Island Lake) and Allen (Lake Wylie). “Citizens have been left to fend for themselves, so we will continue to pursue litigation to get the protective measures that our governments and utility have failed to provide.”

The rule itself, FAQs and other information from the EPA can be found at


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Fish consumption advisories have been issued throughout the Catawba-Wateree River basin.  Many of these advisories are the result of testing initiated by Catawba Riverkeeper and confirmed by state and local officials.  For a chart identifying fish types with the applicable advisories for the Charlotte area, click here.   For more information about the fish advisories, click here.

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