Duke takes good step

From an editorial in the Fayetteville Observer on Thursday:

Duke Energy is doing the right thing. We hope it’s doing it the right way. The giant energy company said this week that it is expanding by 12 the number of coal-ash ponds it will close promptly. Some are in poor condition, leaking their contents into nearby rivers or contaminating the groundwater around them – and beyond.

After the massive 2014 spill at a Duke plant in Eden, the state moved to force Duke to clean up its 32 unlined containment ponds.

Duke initially agreed to empty a few of the ponds, shipping the ash to abandoned clay mines in Chatham and Lee counties, where it will be buried. Duke will line the pits with impermeable material and seal them when they’re filled.

We would prefer to see the utility find ways to recycle the ash. Some companies have begun using the ash in the manufacture of concrete. Duke says it’s evaluating that technology.

Over the protests of some neighbors, Duke has reached agreements with Chatham and Lee county officials, who have agreed to let the company bury the ash. Duke will pay the counties millions of dollars for accepting the waste and has agreed to monitor groundwater nearby, contribute to economic development and possibly build solar farms on the sites.

There’s a lot more waste still to be spoken for, but this is good progress. Getting the ash away from our drinking water is the crucial first step.