- Duke Energy has received permit approval from the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) to begin using the first of three cells at a new 23-acre coal ash landfill adjacent to its Dan River Steam Station in Rockingham County, as reported by the Charlotte Business Journal.
- Permit conditions require the site to be double-lined and maintain leachate collection systems. Once all three cells are constructed, the landfill will have capacity for up to 2.1 million cubic yards of material.
- Duke will be using this landfill to hold ash from two existing ash ponds as well as new waste generated by the power plant. The two ponds are located directly next to the Dan River and were the source of a major spill in 2014.
Following the 2014 spill, which sent an estimated 39,000 tons of ash into the river, North Carolina passed a new law that set stricter requirements for coal ash disposal. Duke's Dan River facility is now one of four considered "high risk" by the state, meaning they must close existing ash pond impoundments by the end of 2019 and ensure that the material is stored safely. This has led Duke to begin excavating material from multiple sites for shipment to new or existing landfills.
These types of spills have put pressure on companies such as Duke to spend whatever it takes to ensure coal ash doesn't become an environmental hazard. In 2008, a spill in Tennessee received a lot of attention and Duke was also called out for a separate spill in North Carolina caused by Hurricane Matthew last fall.
The waste industry has seen this need for proper disposal as a growing opportunity, particularly after the Environmental Protection Agency classified coal ash as a solid waste in 2015, though the details have proven complicated in states that seek to create their own plans. Further complicating these plans, some communities have pushed back on proposals to accept the material at local landfills as shown by Republic Services' recent decision to reverse course on plans to take material from Duke's North Carolina operations at a site in Georgia.