On Tuesday morning, Duke Energy took the long-awaited step of recommending excavation of 12 additional coal ash basins at three unlined, leaking sites across North Carolina, in addition to the work it’s already doing to clean up six other sites.

Duke Energy announced plans to clean up and potentially close five basins at the Cape Fear plant in Moncure, five basins at the H.F. Lee plant in Goldsboro and one basin at W.H. Weatherspoon in Lumberton, as well as one inactive basin at the Cliffside Steam Station in Mooresboro.

Most of the coal ash will be relocated to the lined, structural fills in Chatham and Lee Counties, bringing the total amount of coal ash cleanup from Duke Energy to 39 tons in North and South Carolina.

Frank Holleman, a senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center in Chapel Hill who is currently suing Duke Energy on behalf of several citizens’ groups in federal court over leaking coal ash sites called the announcement “a big step forward.”

“But there’s still more to do,” he cautioned. “Other communities and families in North Carolina deserve similar protections from other unlined, leaking coal ash sites that Duke Energy has across the state. We will keep working to see that Duke Energy’s remaining unlined, leaking coal ash sites are clean up in a way that protects our communities and clean water throughout North Carolina.”

Matthew Starr, the Neuse Riverkeeper, also praised Duke’s decision to remove coal ash away from the Goldsboro site, which is close to the Neuse.

“For far too long the poisoning of groundwater and the Neuse River itself has been allowed to happen without consequence, and this announcement will start the process for that to stop,” Starr said. He also urged Duke Energy to move its coal ash out of other communities and away from waterways across the state.

Active excavation is currently underway at the Duke-owned Asheville Plant, the Riverbend Steam Station in Mt. Holly and the W.S. Lee Steam Station in Belton, South Carolina. Basins have been approved for excavation at the Dan River site in Eden (where the disastrous coal ash spill occurred in 2014), the L.V. Sutton plant in Wilmington and the H.B. Robinson plant in Hartsville, S.C.

Clean-up plans will be vetted by the public and regulators before Duke Energy moves forward.