Charlotte Douglas International Airport has said it doesn’t want coal ash under a runway or anywhere else that might support airplanes – a position that appears to have hampered a proposal by Duke Energy to move the ash onto airport property.
But in an interview Tuesday, Charlotte Mayor Dan Clodfelter wouldn’t rule out the airport taking the ash.
“As for the use of coal ash as fill at the airport, I don’t know whether we have heard the last of that or not,” said Clodfelter, a Democrat.
Charlotte-based Duke Energy has been under pressure to clean up its coal ash ponds since a Feb. 2 spill sent thousands of tons of the toxic material into the Dan River.
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Duke has proposed moving 4 million tons of coal ash that’s in unlined pits at the banks of the city’s drinking water source, Mountain Island Lake. Environmentalists have been open to the idea of taking the ash to the airport, saying it’s a better location for the waste than where it exists today.
City staff this spring floated the idea of using the ash as fill, likely for a new runway that’s been proposed at the airport. The ash would be buried in a lined pit, which has been dubbed an “ash burrito.”
But interim Aviation Director Brent Cagle said he’s worried about the long-term implications of having ash under a runway. Charlotte Douglas has roughly 700 departures a day, and having to close a runway because of unforeseen problems with the ash could disrupt airport operations.
Clodfelter said it’s not the city’s issue to “take over and manage.”
“If action is required by the city to implement ... we have to pitch in and do our part,” Clodfelter said. “I don’t know what that will be.”
Clodfelter was asked if the ash wouldn’t be used as fill for a runway, where and how could the city and airport use it?
“It does have uses as for fill for structural purposes,” Clodfelter said. “It lends itself as an additive to concrete. That has to be explored.”
City Manager Ron Carlee and city staff are studying the issue. They are scheduled to make a recommendation on whether to accept the coal ash at the City Council’s next meeting of the environment committee, which has been tentatively scheduled for June 16.
The committee has asked Duke Energy for its backup plans for the ash if it can’t move it to the airport.