NC WARN cites state history in pressing for clean-up at all coal dumps and protection for all communities
NC WARN’s roots reach back to the 1980s in working with communities targeted by toxic waste incinerators and dumpsites. This includes 10 years in Warren County, where the infamous PCB/dioxin landfill was forced on the community despite massive and sustained resistance. That “state of the art” landfill failed horribly within a decade, leading to an even longer struggle that culminated in 2003 with a $20 million taxpayer-funded clean-up.
Duke Energy’s recent coal ash injustice, a tragedy for nearby and downstream communities, has now expanded into an enormous toxic waste challenge. It would be a disservice if local residents or others are led to believe there are quick, easy fixes.
Based on current information, we believe that the coal ash at all Duke Energy power plants must be promptly removed from the dumps (also called “ponds”). It must be contained and monitored above ground in order to prevent further exposure of workers and neighbors from airborne transfer and further contamination of groundwater and surface water.
In short, the goals should be to prevent further harm to people and wildlife; to detoxify the rivers, ground and groundwater; and to ensure that Duke Energy – not its customers – pays the full cost after poorly managing its toxic waste for so many years.
Key Principles Regarding All Duke Energy Coal Ash Sites
The path forward must avoid further harm to any communities or wildlife.
Safe and effective clean-up will be complicated, and must be pursued promptly but carefully.
The solution must provide justice for communities currently impacted by toxic coal ash and for those who might be targeted for delivery of the toxic waste. The latter tend to be communities of color or others that polluters have historically perceived as lacking the ability to resist.
Decisions must be guided by the communities currently and potentially impacted, and by whatever groups or individuals they choose to assist them. Decisions must not be driven by Duke Energy, federal or state environmental or utility regulators, or politicians.
Duke Energy and its shareholders – not customers – are wholly responsible for all costs because, for many years, Duke Energy executives and shareholders have profited from the choice to manage toxic waste recklessly and on the cheap.
Given the clear absence of a responsible plan for managing coal waste, and given the many other hazards and costs of coal, Duke Energy must begin to rapidly phase out all coal-fired power plants so that no more of this toxic waste needs to be stored or dumped anywhere in North Carolina.
Concerns & Considerations
Different solutions might be needed at different coal ash dumps across the state.
Some of the questions include: How can the waste be carefully dug up and dried prior to any movement on-site or off-site? How can it best be stored or treated? What are the pros and cons of each option? Where does it go? Who does the work? Who decides all of these things and by what process?
Steps forward must be expeditious but careful. There are hazards to be considered at each step, along with the present hazards that continue to emerge.
Transporting coal ash could be a hazard for communities on both ends of the journey and for those along the way. On-site alternatives would eliminate the transport risks.
All landfills leak, as admitted by the US Environmental Protection Agency. Toxic materials cannot be put underground, “out of sight, out of mind,” without impacting groundwater.
Safely rectifying this statewide tragedy will likely cost billions of dollars, a price Duke Energy can afford to pay. The people of this state can no longer tolerate cost-cutting measures that leave workers or communities at risk.
NC WARN calls on the people of North Carolina to stand together so that no one else is harmed physically or financially – or stigmatized – by Duke Energy executives’ mistakes.