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Buck Steam Station not included on Duke’s excavation list

Dukeville residents will have to continue waiting to see coal ash trucked out of their community.

Duke Energy — the largest electric power holding company in the nation — on Tuesday announced the excavation of 12 coal ash basins across the state. Buck Steam Station was left off of the list.

In its announcement, Duke Energy said it would continue a groundwater study at Buck’s coal ash pits before deciding a date or method for closure. Buck Steam Station’s coal ash basins are inactive, meaning ash isn’t currently being placed into the basins.

The 12 coal ash basins are located at five plants, mostly in eastern North Carolina. Duke plans to excavate five basins at its Cape Fear Plant in Moncure, five basins at its H.F. Lee Plant in Goldsboro, one basin at its W.H. Weatherspoon Plant in Lumberton and one basin at its Cliffside Steam Station in Mooresboro. The majority of excavated ash will be placed in lined structural fills in Chatham and Lee counties, according to Duke’s announcement. Remaining ash is scheduled to be placed in lined landfills.

The 12 coal ash basins represent half of Duke Energy’s basins in North Carolina. Tuesday’s announcement brings the total of basins set for closure by excavation to 24. The remaining coal ash basins, including basins at Buck Steam Station, will be part of additional studies.

Duke Energy has previously said groundwater studies at Buck Steam Station could be complete by early fall. The company on Tuesday said it’s confident all basins will be closed by 2029.

Yadkin Riverkeeper Will Scott said the excavation is good news, but leaves out the Dukeville community, where 44 of 45 drinking water wells have been declared unsafe for consumption.

“This announcement does not help the families in Dukeville getting by on bottled water,” Scott said in an emailed statement. “The ash at Buck should be moved to safe, lined storage away from the Yadkin River and the drinking water wells of Dukeville.”

Other coal ash bains designated for further study include: Allen Steam Station in Belmont, Belews Creek Steam Station in Belews Creek, two basins at Cliffside Steam Station, Marshall Steam Station in Terrell, the Mayo Plant in Roxboro and the Roxboro Plant in Semora.

“Once the assessments have been completed, well-established engineering solutions can be deployed as needed to enhance groundwater protections,” said National Ash Management Advisory Board Chairman Dr. John Daniels in Duke’s announcement. “The scale, scope and aggressive schedule of closure efforts that Duke Energy is undertaking allow these principles to serve as a guide for the entire industry.”

One option for the closure of Buck Steam Station is capping the coal ash pits in place, according to Duke’s announcement.

The company in Tuesday’s announcement said it would also capture any leaks or seeps of coal ash compounds, and reroute water back into its basins. Work to capture leaks is scheduled to be complete within six to 12 months, according to Tuesday’s announcement.

Leaks have been documented at Duke’s coal ash ponds across North Carolina. Duke has repeatedly denied contaminated wells near Buck Steam Station in Rowan County are connected to the plant’s coal ash ponds.

A total of 100 water wells in Rowan County’s Dukeville community have been identified for testing, according to the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources. Nearly all of the wells — 44 of 45 — with tests results back so far have been declared unsafe for consumption. The most common two contaminants in the returned test results are hexavalent chromium and vanadium.

Scott has previously said it’s reckless and irresponsible for Duke Energy to say naturally occurring amounts of the chemicals rule out the possibility of contamination from Buck Steam Station.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.

 

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