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Duke Energy reveals specific plans for coal ash removal, community comes with questions

The Department of Environmental Quality is hosting public hearings to explain how the state's remaining coal ash basins will be closed

SPENCER, N.C. — Dozens of people showed up to North Rowan High School Monday night, with questions and concerns to voice about Duke Energy's plans to excavate 80 million tons of coal ash.

According to the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, the move is expected to be the largest coal ash cleanup in U.S. history, requiring more excavation than what was done in four neighboring states combined.

Throughout the month of February, the DEQ has hosted public hearings around the area to explain Duke's submitted plans and hear comments from the community. Monday night's meeting at North Rowan High School addressed the excavation plans specifically for Buck Steam Station in the Salisbury area. 

Altogether, 10 remaining coal ash basins will be closed, the DEQ says. At six of those, the ash will be removed and placed in lined basins on site.

See the excavation and closure plans in detail below:

The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has secured the excavation of more than 80 million tons of coal ash in North Carolina. Under a settlement agreement with community and environmental groups and Duke Energy that ends the appeal litigation, Duke Energy will move forward with excavation plans at the Allen, Belews Creek, Cliffside, Marshall, Mayo and Roxboro sites, moving coal ash into on-site lined landfills.

Buck is one of four locations where coal ash will be excavated and recycled. 

Ed Mussler with the DEQ's Division of Waste Management says recycled ash will have to be burned first to remove remaining carbon, so the ash can then be incorporated into cement. Throughout the process, Mussler says environmental impacts will be tracked.

"They are monitoring, and, of course, the department has multiple inspectors that’ll be on-site," Mussler says. "The community’s watching, too, and I think they understand that."

In total, Duke Energy expects the project to cost $8 million to $9 million. The DEQ says the process is expected to take ten or more years.

RELATED: Duke Energy agrees to close North Carolina coal ash basins

Deborah Graham lives down the street from the Buck site and came to the meeting to voice her concerns with the burning of the ash before recycling. 

She also thinks Duke Energy should cover the cost of the cleanup.

"I know, for 33 years, I’ve lived in my house, and I’ve paid my trash man every month to pick up my trash," Graham said. "Duke Energy’s been down at the end of my street. They have not paid the trash man to pick up their trash for 33 years. Now, they want me to also pay for that. That’s just another slap in our face."

RELATED: Duke Energy wants to raise utility bills to clean up coal ash

There are three public hearings left. Each session will start with a meeting to give information and answer questions. A public hearing to record public comments will immediately follow. The meetings take place at 6 p.m. 

These are the remaining dates:

Feb. 25: Cliffside Steam Station/Rogers Energy Complex Closure Plans
Location/Address: Chase High School (Cafeteria) located at 1603 Chase High Road, Forest City, N.C. 28043

Feb. 26: Marshall Steam Station Closure Plans
Location/Address: Maiden High School located at 600 W. Main St. in
Maiden, N.C. 28650. Speakers can begin signing up at 5:30; meeting begins at 6 p.m.

Feb. 27: Allen Steam Station Closure Plans
Location/Address: Stuart Cramer High School (Gymnasium) located at 101 Lakewood Road, Belmont, N.C. 28012

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Correction note: An earlier version of this article identified the meeting location on February 27 as Bandy High School. The correction location is Maiden High School.