The Lilies Project

Caroline Armijo

Funding Received: 2017
Walnut Cove, NC
Funding Period: 2 years and 6 months
November 12, 2020
October 16, 2018

This week NC Department of Environmental Quality accepted comments on the updating of the state’s CCR Rules. Many members of our ACT group shared their own stories with the state agency. Following are the comments that I submitted:

To Whom It May Concern:

I am writing in regards to preventing potential changes of the CCR Rules. 

I am an advocate for coal ash, specifically related to my home community of Belews Creek. However I stand united with all fourteen locations in North Carolina who house coal ash, including the site of coal ash landfills in Lee and Chatham Counties. Belews Creek is the home of 20 million tons of coal ash. Over eight million tons are in a capped-in-place mountain that has already been proven to have failed and created a large arsenic plume off of Old Plantation Road. We know that capping-in-place does not work. It should not be considered by DEQ as a solution that serves anyone other than Duke Energy. 

After Florence, we all see the future for coal ash in landfills in our state. Three different types of landfills failed. At Sutton, we witnessed the failure of a new lined landfill. At Lee, we saw the failure of a classic, unlined landfill awaiting closure. And at Brickhaven, we saw the failure of a mine reclamation landfill. None of these solutions are viable as we face climate change and can expect more frequent storms with greater strength. Yet we know that in South Carolina, the state was able to clean up all of the sites under budget and under timeframes. The groundwater immediately improved. 

Therefore, I am asking for the following:

• Do not allow Duke to Cap-In-Place
• Keep the coal ash on Duke-owned property, and not dumped on other communities
• Support storing ash in a dry, lined system that can be reused in encapsulated products to rebuild our failing infrastructure
• Do not interfere with citizens’ rights to hold Duke legally accountable for its coal ash pollution.

Through the work of NC A&T State University, we have technology available to that will encapsulate the coal ash in a solid form so that we no longer have to worry about getting the ash into our bodies through the air and water. We need to use these storms as reason to push forward on this strategy. By reconsidering the coal ash as a valuable raw material instead of a waste that DEQ and Duke continues to ignore, we can use the encapsulated coal ash for rebuilding our much needed infrastructure.

The UN’s report on Climate Change presents a dire urgency to actually address this issues and move beyond the political pressure of Duke and focusing on their bottom line. All of our lives are at stake. North Carolina has the opportunity to holistically solve this problem that plagues not only our state, but the entire country. 

By using a crop like hemp, we can plant in impacted areas that will draw the heavy metals out of the ground. That plant can then be used to create the polymer binding agent for encapsulation. Therefore the remains of the plants containing the heavy metals will be encapsulated in with the loose ash. It provides a new crop for local farmers and additional jobs for coal ash impacted communities. While the ash needs to be dried, it does not need to be reburned with a lower discharge than the STAR system by SEFA. This technology is much more environmentally sound than solutions currently being put forth. 

Instead of denying claims of coal ash failure at every storm, let’s imagine a near future where these sites are cleaned up and technology surpassed expectations. In the end, Duke will continue to profit off of this solution as well. But it requires having DEQ demand that they choose a different way. The current landfill options fail and will continue to fail time and time again. Why would you professionally subject yourselves to ongoing pressure? Now is the time to clean it up and ensure a better tomorrow by upholding our CCR Rules to the highest of standards that can serve as a model throughout the country. 

Thank you.


Caroline Armijo