Duke kicks off long process of trucking away coal ash from Lee plant in South Carolina

Duke Energy (NYSE: DUK) said May 15 that the W.S. Lee Steam Station site in Belton, S.C., has seen a lot of activity in recent weeks in anticipation of the first truckload of coal ash to be excavated and relocated to an off-site landfill.

On May 14, trucks moved the first tons of the material. In this first phase of excavation, Waste Management is re-locating about 1.4 million tons of ash from the inactive ash basin and an ash fill area to its landfill in Homer, Ga. This represents about 39% of the material on the property and is expected to take two to three years.

“This is an important milestone for our customers as we transition out of the wet ash business altogether,” said John Elnitsky, senior vice president of Ash Strategy, about the first truck moves. “This ash movement is the next step toward safely closing ash basins in the Carolinas.”

The company announced in December the remaining ash at the site will be relocated to a fully lined facility and is evaluating if an on-site landfill is feasible.

Duke Energy Carolinas‘ W.S. Lee Steam Station was officially retired as a coal plant in November 2014. W.S. Lee was the last remaining coal-fired plant in the Duke Energy fleet in South Carolina. Units 1 and 2 are being decommissioned, and Unit 3 was successfully converted to burn natural gas in March 2015. A separate 750-MW natural gas combined-cycle plant will be built at the site with construction expected to begin in summer 2015.

On May 15, North Carolina regulators issued the final industrial stormwater permits for the Allen, Marshall and Riverbend stations. This clears the path to initiate ash removal from the Riverbend site to a fully-lined facility. The company has been evaluating landfill options that are ready to receive the material and will start with a few trucks to pilot the process and minimize impacts to neighbors.

“We share our customers’ urgency for moving ash and closing basins, and we are mobilizing to the site to begin preparations to excavate soon,” Elnitsky said.

Duke Energy also will excavate ash at the Dan River and Sutton plants in North Carolina as required by a new state law once the appropriate permits are received. The company continues engineering studies at other sites to develop customized plans to safely close basins in ways that protect groundwater and the community.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.