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Charlotte proposes coal ash deal
Airport would swap land with Duke Energy
 
Published Thursday, August 14, 2014 9:12 am
by Herbert L. White

Charlotte officials are offering a land swap with Duke Energy to move coal ash from Mountain Island Lake.


The city’s Environment Committee presented findings on Wednesday that explored Duke’s proposal to use coal ash as structural fill at Charlotte-Douglas International Airport. The committee found that moving 4.7 million tons of ash by truck from Mountain Island Lake to the airport as part of a fourth runway’s construction would save the city $30 million. However, the report concluded “the risk of putting coal ash under the airfield was an unacceptable risk.”


Mountain Island Lake is adjacent to a pair of coal ash ponds at Duke’s Riverbend Steam Station. The ponds, which are uncovered and unlined, are held in by an earthen berm. Several municipalities, including Charlotte, gets their water from Mountain Island Lake.


Coal ash is the byproduct of burning coal to generate energy. It contains toxic substances that include arsenic, mercury, lead, cadmium, chromium, beryllium and thallium.
The committee proposal would initiate a land swap between Duke and the airport in which the ash would be moved to property in which Charlotte-Douglas has a standing offer to buy. The utility is considering the deal, according to the city panel. If both sides agree, the Federal Aviation Administration would have to approve the trade, which would include “deed restrictions on development and a requirement for environmental monitoring to ensure water quality,” the report said.


In February a spill at Duke's power plant near Eden, dumped 39,000 tons of toxic sludge into the Dan River near the Virginia border. The accident sparked debate about the safety of Duke's 33 coal ash dumps in North Carolina. The Charlotte utility – the nation’s largest – removed 2,500 tons of sediment from the Dan, which was turned gray for more than 70 miles.
Nationally, there are more than 1,100 such dumps.


Studies haven’t linked coal ash pits to adverse health effects, but residents living near them and environmental advocates contend anecdotal evidence of years of cancer diagnoses and birth defects are cause for concern.

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