CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Charlotte City Council will hear details Monday of a Duke Energy plan to move coal ash from the Riverbend Steam Station on Mountain Island Lake to the Charlotte Douglas International Airport for use as structured fill essentially fill dirt for leveling land for building, but encapsulated so it does not come in contact with groundwater. But Duke Energy has already embarked on a similar project at the Asheville Airport, and Riverkeepers in Charlotte and Asheville have given the process a tentative endorsement.
Duke did not begin moving coal ash from its Lake Julian power plant in Asheville because the company was worried about coal ash leaking into groundwater. It was done as a necessary measure because they basically just ran out of room here, said French Broad Riverkeeper Hartwell Carson.
Carson and his counterpart, Sam Perkins of the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation, have given the process a tentative thumbs up with some caveats. It s a thousand times better than what we have here, said Carson, Which is an unlined hole in the ground full of toxic metals.
Those unlined holes in the ground can and do leak into groundwater and adjacent rivers and lakes. So Riverkeepers have warmed up to the idea of using the coal ash as structured fill at airports.
This would be dry stored with the liner, said Carson. It would be wrapped up like a burrito and in theory it would be safe but they need to site it properly. They need to implement it properly and they need to monitor it long-term to make sure there are no leaks and it isn't migrating off property.
There may be some daylight between environmental groups however on the best place for millions of tons of coal ash. The Blue Ridge Environmental Council has called a news conference for Monday in Raleigh to say that all landfills leak even if they are double lined.
The Charlotte City Council has asked to hear from both the Catawba Riverkeeper and Duke Energy on the proposal to move coal ash to the airport in its Monday dinner briefing.