DEQ hosted a Q&A information session at Belews Creek on January 10th, 2019. It was the first of six sessions of the remaining sites with undetermined closure plans. While we had a powerful press conference ahead of the hearing and a great turn-out, many of the community members felt frustrated with DEQ’s format.
In speaking with community members since the meeting, they have used phrases including “staged chaos,” “no sense of order,” and a “shell game.” Community members were directed to visit tables about specific topics related to the coal ash basin. Instead of being able to answer questions, they were directed to another table and numerous questions went unanswered. One resident was so frustrated that she asked to have her name removed from DEQ’s list. The DEQ register apologized for the event “being so brutal.”
The format of these sessions at the Marshall Hearing one week later. The gym was at capacity of the Lake Norman school gym and residents were turned away. When Holman directed community members to go to the tables, they refused. The crowd was able to ask questions and have them answered from the floor. Precisely the way that Belews Creek community expected the event to take place. Residents were asked their opinion regarding each of the three formats - cap-in-place, hybrid, or excavation. The excavation received a resounding yes.
So the work is on the community to continue to collect these comments through the February 15th period. It is also important not to overlook the Water Discharge and Special Order of Consent Permit, which closes tomorrow, January 25th.
The Lilies Project is hosting a series of fun events to collect more comments over the next two weeks. Residents for Coal Ash Cleanup is also hosting another information session at the Walnut Cove Public Library so that residents will be able to have their questions answered by Southern Environmental Law Center and Appalachian Voices about the specific plans. We will be collecting comments, as well. A more formalized hearing will be held in early April, which will allow the community to publicly speak to DEQ. But we want to make sure that we are loud and clear before that point that we demand full excavation of the coal ash to safe, lined landfills that already exist on Duke’s property.
Following are points concerning Duke’s Final Closure Plan at Belews Creek provided by SELC.
DEQ: PLEASE REQUIRE DUKE ENERGY TO MOVE ITS COAL ASH AT BELEWS CREEK TO DRY, LINED STORAGE AWAY FROM OUR WATERWAYS
• DEQ should require Duke Energy to remove its coal ash from its leaking, unlined pit and move it to dry lined storage away from our Belews Lake and the Dan River and out of our groundwater.
• Duke Energy plans to leave its coal ash sitting in the groundwater at Belews Creek, where it will keep polluting our groundwater, lakes, and rivers. Recent monitoring shows Duke Energy is polluting the groundwater surrounding Belews Creek with toxic and radioactive materials. We need cleanup—not coverup!
• The community has come out time after time over the last several years, making clear that we’re concerned about pollution from Duke Energy’s coal ash and want Duke Energy to get its coal ash out of its unlined, leaking pits. It is long past time for DEQ and Duke Energy to listen.
• Duke Energy is already required to remove its coal ash at eight other sites in North Carolina and all of its sites in South Carolina, and the governor of Virginia recently called for all the coal ash to be removed from Dominion’s unlined sites—our families and our community deserve the same protections.
• Duke Energy already has dry, lined ash storage on its property, or has said it could build a new landfill to hold ash removed from its leaking pond. Ash will not travel through the Walnut Cove community or to other communities.
• Duke Energy can excavate all the ash from its leaking Belews Creek pond and move it to dry, lined storage on its property without one truck carrying ash through the community.
• Duke cannot exaggerate traffic concerns while downplaying the community’s real concern: Duke Energy’s water pollution.
• Duke Energy’s own experts know that even cap in place will involve trucking construction materials to the site—just like any other construction project. But even under their estimates, cap in place would have the biggest impact to daily average truck traffic on community roads—a 12% increase compared to 11% for the “hybrid” option and 9% for excavation.
• It is past time for DEQ to listen to the community—not Duke Energy’s consultants— about what our community needs. We need Duke to clean up its coal ash and stop the water pollution.
TELL DEQ WHAT YOU THINK IN WRITING
E-mail DEQ at belewscomments [at] ncdenr.gov or submit your feedback online at https://selc.link/2GQOp4U.
Prepared by the Southern Environmental Law Center