Coal ash begins exit from Riverbend power plant

The first loads of coal ash left Duke Energy’s Riverbend power plant west of Charlotte on Thursday as the company began removing 1 million tons of ash.

The plant, which was retired in 2013, perches above Charlotte’s water supply on Mountain Island Lake. State law identifies it as one of four high-priority sites for closing coal ash ponds, which have been linked to contamination, by 2019.

“We share our customers’ urgency for closing ash basins, and we’re glad to get this important work under way,” John Elnitsky, Duke’s ash strategy chief, said in a statement. “We started moving ash just a few days after receiving the necessary permits.”

The first deposits to be removed aren’t coming from Riverbend’s two ponds, but from dry ash previously dredged from them. Initial loads, about 10 truckloads a day, will go to a lined landfill in Homer, Ga.

Duke’s contractor is working to get state permits to haul most of the first 1 million tons of ash to open-pit clay mines in Chatham and Lee counties. Riverbend stores 4.5 million tons of ash in all.

Duke began hauling ash away from a South Carolina power plant, W.S. Lee, on May 14. Bruce Henderson

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