Hurricane Florence rains trigger possible coal-ash spill into lake at Wilmington plant
Environmental attorneys and a Cape Fear River advocacy group are looking closely at a possible Duke Energy coal ash spill near Sutton Lake in Wilmington.
Charlotte-based Duke Energy, in a news release Saturday night, blamed historic rains from Hurricane Florence for eroding the landfill, possibly letting coal ash reach the lake at the Sutton Power Plant.
Cape Fear Riverkeeper Kemp Burdette, with the advocacy group Cape Fear River Watch, said Sunday he is investigating the possible release of about 2,000 cubic yards of material, or enough to fill about two-thirds of an Olympic-sized swimming pool.
The majority of displaced ash was collected in a ditch and haul road that surrounds the landfill and is on plant property, Duke Energy officials said.
Frank Holleman, a senior attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center, said the landfill’s failure “illustrates the dangers of Duke Energy’s practice of disposing of coal ash near waterways throughout North and South Carolina.”
“After this storm, we hope that Duke Energy will commit itself to removing its ash from all its unlined waterfront pits and, if it refuses, that the state of North Carolina will require it to remove the ash from these unlined pits,” Holleman said in a news release Sunday. “We also hope that Duke Energy will take the necessary steps to ensure that its landfill at Sutton in Wilmington is secure and will not spill when there are storms, floods, or hurricanes.”
Duke Energy officials said they don’t think the spill will affect the environment. They could not say if any coal ash washed into the Cape Fear River or Sutton Lake.
Sutton Lake is a cooling pond that was constructed to support plant operations, the company said in a news release. The 1,100-acre lake next to the banks of the Cape Fear River is a popular fishing destination.