DENR Approves Coal Ash Pits In Lee, Chatham Counties

Jun 5, 2015

The abandoned Cherokee Clay and Brick Mine in Lee County.
Credit Dave DeWitt

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources announced today that it has approved the necessary permits to transform two abandoned clay mines into coal ash storage pits.

Duke Energy intends to ship coal ash from several of its facilities across the state to the Colon Mine Site in Lee County and the Brickhaven No. 2 Mine Tract “A” in Chatham County. It was awaiting the DENR permits before it began moving ash. The Lee and Chatham County facilities will be the first lined coal ash pits in the state.

The Coal Ash Management Act of 2014 requires Duke Energy to remove coal ash from unlined pits at four high-priority sites in North Carolina by 2019 and all sites by 2029.

“Issuance of these permits is a critical step in our efforts to permanently close all of North Carolina’s coal ash ponds,” said Tom Reeder, an assistant secretary for DENR, in a statement. “Our department will continue to monitor these projects closely to ensure that public health and the environment are protected.”

Some grassroots environmental groups, like the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, have tried to organize local residents to protest the re-classification of the mines. Other environmental groups, such as the Southern Environmental Law Center, have stated approval of the plan.

In a statement, Duke Energy said said that in the initial phase of work, ash from the retired L.V. Sutton Steam Station and Riverbend Steam Station will be transported to the mine sites.

Duke Energy's contractor, Green Meadow LLC, will need additional state and federal permits before it can begin construction near wetlands.