- Unknown amounts of coal ash from Duke Energy's H.F. Lee Energy Complex in North Carolina have leaked into the nearby Neuse River as a result of Hurricane Matthew, as reported by Environmental Leader.
- The Waterkeeper Alliance says that three coal ash ponds were flooded for five days as a result of flooding from the Neuse River.
- The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) sent a letter to Duke Energy on Oct. 21 requiring the company to assess the damage and develop a cleanup plan with a specific timeline. DEQ also reserved the right to pursue further investigation or issue violations in the future.
This comes two years after a burst Duke Energy pipe spilled 100,000 cubic yards of coal ash into North Carolina's Dan River. That incident and a major spill at a Tennessee Valley Authority facility in 2008 have both led to increased scrutiny around coal ash disposal practices. As a result, Duke Energy and others have been looking to waste management companies for solutions in some cases.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently released a rule which designates coal ash from utilities as nonhazardous waste, though it's currently only enforceable through citizen lawsuits in federal court. Some states have begun to move forward on developing their own plans, but questions about implementation and legal liability remain. Congress has been working on updates to the rule that would let states adopt the EPA's criteria into their permit programs pending approval.
These changes are expected to pass as part of the Water Resources Development Act, which could be finalized by the end of the year. Finding ways to reduce the use of coal ash ponds will help prevent the types of environmental disasters seen in North Carolina recently, though some communities near the landfills which could be accepting the material aren't pleased. Former President Jimmy Carter recently wrote a letter in opposition to plans for coal ash disposal at a Republic Services site in Georgia.