Duke Energy's release of coal ash site plans prompts 'high hazar - FOX Carolina 21

Duke Energy's release of coal ash site plans prompts 'high hazard' classification

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State regulators have raised the hazard classification for two dams at a coal ash pond in Lumberton.

The change comes after Duke Energy sent the NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) its emergency response plans for all of its 33 coal ash sites throughout the state.

The reclassification came to dams at the coal ash pond at the Weatherspoon plant, which stopped operating in 2011.

Now DENR says the dams are a "high hazard," the most serious of the three classifications. That does not have anything to do with the dams' strength or weakness, but it is because Duke's emergency response plan for Weatherspoon showed there are homes downstream on the Lumber River where property or lives would be in danger if the coal ash ever leaked.

Anita Hardy lives southeast of the Weatherspoon plant in the area that could be in danger. She has given a lot of thought to being downstream from Weatherspoon since the leak of coal ash at the Dan River site earlier this year.

She said she is glad to know Duke Energy and state regulators acknowledge there is a threat to her area, but she would like to hear more.

“How are they going to contain it? What are they going to do to contain it? What are they going to do to prevent another spill?” she asked. “They need to make us aware as a community. Right now [Duke is] acknowledging that you have a problem, but you don't know the significance of your problem or what it's going to do in the long term.”

Duke spokesman Jeff Brooks says the company is working on how to handle its coal ash sites. That information may be released once a plan is in place. However, emergency response plans are not made public due to concerns about security at the sites.

In addition to sending DENR its emergency response plans for 33 coal ash sites, the company also sent response plans for 16 freshwater lakes adjacent to some sites.

DENR requested those plans after the Dan River leak earlier this year. The fact that Duke Energy has sent those plans to DENR is at least a small sign that Duke has complied with that request and is working with DENR to review coal ash sites.

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Brandon Herring

Brandon is a North Carolina native and UNC alum who lives in Fayetteville, and covers Cumberland County and the Sandhills. Returning to North Carolina to work as a journalist is a dream come true for Brandon. More>>

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