Diana Hales

April 16, 2015: Charah Permit for “Mine Reclamation” in Brickhaven (Chatham County)

We are here today because Duke Energy has a 70-year ash problem. Existing coal ash pits around the state have failed and their contents are seeping into our public waters. Instead of seeking a 21st century solution to permanently neutralize these toxic residuals, Duke Energy will dig more pits and transport their problems to Chatham and Lee counties.

Our Legislature made a law to allow Duke Energy to move ash into so-called “structural fill” pits and compress it against a 20-year HDPE plastic liner to form twin 50-ft tall mounds in Moncure. This Frankenstein-monster permit strips local government authority, endangers public health, diminishes economic prospects, and offers a temporary Band-aid, not a solution.

It is all in the name: Solid Waste Management Facility, Structural Fill, Mine Reclamation Permit.

“Structural Fill” is a lie. This is a solid waste landfill, but without the normal protections:

  • No local government approval is required for this permit
  • No environmental impact study is required for this permit
  • Setbacks from private residences and water wells have been reduced from 500-feet to 300-ft
  • Setbacks from property boundaries have been reduced from 300-feet to 50-feet
  • Setbacks from surface waters have been reduced to 50-feet
  • Distance from the seasonal high groundwater table is only 4-feet!

“Mine reclamation” is another lie. The site plans show extensive areas of new excavation. The existing quarry is but a small part of the plan at each site.

In the Army Corps of Engineers permit, Charah stipulates the liner has a 500-year life expectancy. This is an outrageous claim, to say the least. But then, Charah has no liability beyond 30-years. Charah also claimed in that permit application it was bringing in 3 million tons of coal ash, when we know it is closer to 20 million tons between the Chatham and Lee sites.

Leachate pollutant limits are extremely relaxed for coal combustion products. The permit allows Charah to use the State’s 2T rules for metal toxicity. These rules allow high concentrations of metals…in milligrams per liter…because the waste is not supposed to be discharged to surface waters.

However, the truth is that millions of gallons of Charah’s leachate will go downstream in the Cape Fear through a municipal waste water treatment facility. Most wastewater treatment plants do not do a good job at removing metals from their waste stream, because they use biological processes. In fact, two of the metals, barium and thallium, are not included in their testing standards at all. All those concentrated toxic metals will travel downstream or become the sludge spread on our farmland.

Deny this Frankenstein permit that has been cobbled together in a cauldron of special interests.

Deny this permit because it doesn’t solve our coal ash problem.

Our community has a right to clean air and water, deny this permit.