Duke Energy Progress has agreed to clean up and relocate eighty million tons of coal ash to safer lined landfills as part of a settlement agreement with the state Department of Environmental Quality and several environmental groups. 

According to a settlement agreement ratified Tuesday, Duke Energy admits to no wrongdoing but agrees to clean up the coal ash sites scattered across the state by 2037. 

Duke Energy’s coal ash mess has plagued the state for years. In 2014, thirty-nine thousand tons of the toxic ash contaminated a seventy-mile stretch of the Dan River. Two years later, the state admitted to trying to cover it up after a toxicologist under Republican governor Pat McCrory testified that state officials told residents their water was safe knowing it wasn’t. 

Coal ash contains toxic chemicals like chromium and arsenic that are known to cause cancer.

The legislature passed bills in 2014 and 2016 to assess the public health risk posed by Duke Energy’s thirty-three pits and excavate many of them. As of 2019, nine remained active in unlined covered pits containing over eighty million tons of coal ash. 

Per the agreement, seven of those pits will now be excavated and cleaned, while two will be partially excavated. The coal ash will be moved to lined landfills, which do not pose the same risk of groundwater contamination. 

Contact Raleigh news editor Leigh Tauss at ltauss@indyweek.com.

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