Federal EPA delays NC coal ash cleanup efforts

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – State environmental officials said the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will again delay coal ash clean-up efforts in North Carolina.

The clean-up efforts have been delayed for up to 90 days.

“For well over a year, the federal Environmental Protection Agency has prevented the cleanup of coal ash ponds in North Carolina,” said Tom Reeder, assistant secretary for the environment at Department of Environmental Quality. “The state has worked tirelessly to meet every deadline in the coal ash law despite delays and interference from the EPA. The federal government is treating North Carolina differently than other states and once again is single handedly preventing us from moving wet ash with another delay.”

DEQ has sought federal approval for conditions of the state’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit. The Riverbend wastewater permit will provide for decanting and dewatering activities associated with coal ash pond closures and account for all seeps.

DEQ claims the EPA has contradicted itself on permit provisions, causing the cleanup delay.

“While we understand the permits are new to everyone, including the federal EPA, we need decisions to be made so that we can move forward with the coal ash pond closure process,” said Jeff Poupart, water quality permitting section chief at DEQ. “While other states seem to be bypassing the permitting process for decanting activities, EPA made it clear that North Carolina must wait for federal approval. We are stuck in a holding pattern until the EPA makes a decision on how to proceed.

Coal ash stored in dry stacks at the Riverbend facility is currently being moved off site; however the majority of Riverbend’s coal ash is stored in coal ash ponds.

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