Efforts to clean Duke Energy Corp. coal ash pits at the site along the Virginia-North Carolina border where one of the worst spills of the toxic waste occurred two years ago will cost the company as much as $10 billion. It’s a burden the energy company hopes to gain back by increasing customers’ power bills in both North and South Carolina. That’s certainly not good news.
The utility had set aside about $3.5 billion for cleanup costs in both states, but the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) added an additional $448 million in liabilities. If that $4 billion is allowed to be shouldered by Duke Energy customers, the average North Carolina household could see an average increase of about $18 a year for electricity costs over the next 25 years.
The company said the cleanup could cost as much as $10 billion before it is all said and done. Currently, coal ash and dirt are being dumped into dozens of railroad cars along the Virginia-North Carolina border with plans to ship more than 1.5 million tons of the toxic sludge – a byproduct of coal burned to produce electricity – to a landfill about 130 miles away in central Virginia. Duke Energy built two miles of railroad track to connecting lines to access the excavation site.
Once the coal ash pit is emptied, it will be lined with waterproof material to prevent heavy metals from the coal ash from seeping into underground water supplies. The pit will be refilled with coal ash removed from similar pits closer to the Dan River.
Two years ago, a pipe at one of the coal ash ponds burst, triggering a massive coal ash spill, contaminating local water supplies. Last year, Duke Energy agreed to pay $7 million to settle claims of groundwater pollution as a result of the coal ash spill. The utility also agreed to plead guilty to criminal violations of federal water pollution laws and agreed to shell out $102 million in fines and remediation.
Coal ash ponds have come under stricter guidance after the 2008 spill at a Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) fossil fuel plant in a small community in east Tennessee destroyed more than 40 homes and contaminated nearby waterways. That clean-up effort cost $1.1 billion and took six years to complete. Rhon Jones and David Byrne from our firm were involved in that litigation.
Source: Claims Journal
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