Coal ash cleanup begins, more work to be done

By Stephanie Carson
Public News Service-NC

SALISBURY — It is the first full week that, by law, North Carolina will clean up four coal ash-sites in the state — in Asheville, Eden, Gastonia and Wilmington. While the cleanup is welcome news for those communities, others living near the 10 coal-ash sites not included want the state to do more.

“It saddens me that our politics don’t really take the health of others seriously,” said Kimberly Brewer of Rowan County. “I sit back and wonder how many other families are going to have to go through what I go through.”

Photo courtesy of Yadkin Riverkeeper Clean-up efforts to remove coal sediment already have begun at the Dan River coal-ash site in Eden, after a February coal-ash spill.

Photo courtesy of Yadkin Riverkeeper
Clean-up efforts to remove coal sediment already have begun at the Dan River coal-ash site in Eden, after a February coal-ash spill.

Brewer is the mother of four, two of whom have birth defects she believes were caused by the coal-ash ponds adjacent to their front yard from the Buck Steam Power Plant. She since has moved away from the pond and said as a result, her children require fewer doctor visits, went from taking 15 medications to none, and are in better health overall.

The Coal Ash Management Act of 2014 took effect after Gov., Pat McCrory announced he would take no action on the legislation after it passed, which allowed it to become law.

This month, the group Environment North Carolina delivered comments from 40,000 citizens asking the state to do more to clean up all of the coal-ash ponds in the state. David Rogers, the organization’s field director, said he hopes the governor takes their message to heart.

“Gov. McCrory has a huge opportunity right now to really lead, and deliver when it comes to protecting North Carolina’s rivers and lakes,” Rogers said.

Caroline Armijo, who grew up near the Belews Creek plant in Stokes County, said she became concerned in recent years after several family members and friends who also live in the area were diagnosed with cancer. Since then, Armijo said, she has been working hard to educate her neighbors.

“And people just don’t even know about it,” she said. “They’re just sleeping right next to this huge pond; they don’t even know it could flood.”

The pond associated with the plant has been designated as “high hazard” for dam failure by the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources. Fracking is also proposed near the Belews Creek plant, and Armijo and others say that adds extra risk of disturbing the ground and the coal-ash dam.

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  • http://yahoo anonymous-right editor?

    Didn’t we have a legislator vote against making Duke power pay for the clean up. Does anyone know?

  • rick

    Duke energy is the biggest single threat to the environment of North Carolina. It’s about time they be held accountable for their reckless operations. Please contact our legislatures and ask that Duke Energy be held accountable. Our drinking water is at stake!

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