Duke Energy is projecting that it could take up to 30 years to clean up all the coal ash at its largest coal-fired power plant, the Marshall Steam Station on Lake Norman. But environmentalists and state lawmakers are pushing Duke to come up with quicker solutions.

Duke's North Carolina President Paul Newton used the 30 year figure in a slide shown to lawmakers this week emphasizing that while Duke's Dan River site had 1.2 million tons of coal ash dumped in ponds, the Marshall plant on Lake Norman has 22 million.

Newton said the cleanup is based on one 20 ton dump truck loaded with coal ash every three minutes for 12 hour days, six days a week for 30 years. But environmentalists say there are other means to safely remove and store the coal ash, much of which is currently in unlined lagoons which leak into surrounding lakes, streams and groundwater.

I really think that the public is expecting a quicker resolution, a quicker closure strategy, and I'll just leave it at that, state Senator Gene McLaurin of Rockingham said to Newton in a public hearing.

We got that; we feel that pressure as well, Newton responded. There's not a quick easy fix to resolving 90 years of ash.

I don't think the dump truck is the only mechanism, said Sam Perkins of the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation. There are other options for instance at the TVA site in Kingston, Tennessee (the site of a major coal ash spill in 2007) there was a sort of burrito inside of rail cars so you could move it by rail.

Duke projects it can clean up the 4 million tons of coal ash from the closed Riverbend Steam Station on Mountain Island Lake, the source of most of Charlotte's drinking water, in five to six years including time for engineering studies and permits. That ash is proposed to be placed at Charlotte Douglas Airport as structured fill, wrapped in layers of lining to protect it from polluting groundwater.
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