Moving coal ash from Roxboro site a ‘monumental challenge,’ engineer says

ROXBORO, N.C. (WNCN) – A Duke Energy coal ash site near Roxboro houses about 34 million tons of ash and generates more everyday while providing electricity.

The Roxboro site holds about 20 percent of all of the coal ash across North Carolina.

That ash can be converted into other products like concrete and drywall.

Gypsum is a byproduct of coal-fired powerplants and the Roxboro plants produces thousands of tons of it a year.

“We sell that. That’s really a function of the demand of the wall-board industry how much gypsum they end up taking” said Duke Energy engineer Dave Renner.

But that gypsum is only a fraction of the ash stored in Roxboro.

The rest must be cleaned up.

Under the currently proposed rules, Duke Energy would have to excavate all of their sites including the one in Roxboro.

Duke Energy says capping the coal ash pits is the best option, not removal.

“This is the most extreme method for closure that can be selected for these sites. We don’t’ see that it matches with the science we see at our sites,” said Duke Energy spokesman Jeff Brooks. “Our science indicates this material could be capped safely in place providing the same method of protection from the environment.”

The Roxboro site is one of 10 that for now must be cleaned up by 2024.

Duke Energy has eight years to move 34 million tons of ash. A typical dump truck can hold 20 tons which means it would take 1.7 million dump truck loads total.

“It’s going to be a monumental challenge for if we’re forced to excavate ash from all of our sites,” said Renner.

Duke Energy is supporting Senate Bill 71 which passed the North Carolina House but was voted down in the Senate Thursday. It now sits with a conference committee.

SB71 reinstates an independent coal ash management commission that would decide the fate of North Carolina’s coal ash pits.

“It’s going to have a significant impact on communities, not just communities where plants are but communities where we’d have to take this ash, as well as cost for every customer in North Carolina,” Brooks said.

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