SACE response to coal ash spill from the Duke Energy’s H.F. Lee Steam Plant

Guest Blog | October 19, 2016 | Press Releases

October 19, 2016

Contact: Amelia Shenstone, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, 339-223-0536, [email protected]

SACE response to coal ash spill from the Duke Energy’s H.F. Lee Steam Plant
Southeastern states must take steps to reduce risk of next disaster


Video and Photo by: Pete Harrison, Waterkeeper Alliance & Matt Starr, Upper Neuse Riverkeeper / Sound Rivers

A significant coal ash spill was discovered by Waterkeeper Alliance and Sound Rivers along the Neuse River near Duke’s H.F. Lee Steam Plant. The advocacy groups discovered the ash about 10 miles upstream of Goldsboro, North Carolina. See Waterkeeper Alliance’s press release here for more information and video.

The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy (SACE) is deeply concerned about the coal ash spill at Duke’s H.F. Lee Steam Plant and is in close communication with our allies awaiting further details and developments. Today’s spill is yet another tragic example of why coal ash must be excavated from pits near waterways and stored in lined, dry impoundments away from rivers and well above the water table, as soon as possible. Coal ash pits by our rivers are a disaster waiting to happen, and disaster struck yet again this week with Hurricane Matthew.

The best way to eliminate the economic and public health risks of coal ash is for utilities to stop burning coal, properly store coal ash, and aggressively transition to renewable energy. Decision makers in the Southeast need urgently to protect our communities and environment from the risks of coal ash contamination. Most states have a lot of work ahead of them.

Georgia: Georgia’s Department of Natural Resources is set vote on amendments to the state’s solid waste rules that would regulate coal ash. Unfortunately, the rules do not regulate municipal solid waste landfills that could receive millions of tons of ash, and they allow for inadequate groundwater monitoring at Georgia Power’s disposal sites despite revelations that groundwater below six of the utility’s 11 power plant sites is already contaminated.

Tennessee: The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) is proposing to leave its coal ash in unlined, leaking pits on the banks of rivers used by millions of Tennesseans for drinking water and recreation. Tennessee’s Department of Environment & Conservation (TDEC) said in 2015 that it will review TVA’s plans to affirm they comply with federal and state waste and coal ash laws but thus far its action has been delayed.

South Carolina: South Carolina utilities are demonstrating that excavating ash really works; already, one excavated site shows a dramatic reduction of arsenic contamination in groundwater. Between 2012–2015, South Carolina’s three utilities committed to excavate roughly 20 million tons of coal ash at all waterfront coal ash pits in the state and remove it to lined, dry storage.

North Carolina: The Coal Ash Management Act of 2014 created a process for rating coal ash pits and determining how they would be closed. After hundreds of North Carolinians attended over a dozen public hearings across the state demanding stronger action, North Carolina’s Department of Environmental Quality determined that all of Duke’s coal ash pits needed to be excavated. However, Governor Pat McCrory soon signed a new bill into law which could allow Duke to escape requirements to excavate many of its coal ash pits.

Florida: Despite sinkhole collapse and groundwater contamination risks posed by Florida’s porous geology and high water table–and the chance of another hurricane like Matthew–the Department of Environmental Protection has not taken action to regulate toxic coal ash stored in unlined pits across the state.

Alabama: So far, Alabama’s Department of Environmental Management has failed to incorporate the Environmental Protection Agency’s minimum standards for coal ash handling, disposal, and storage into state policy, so Alabamians have plenty of cause for concern.


About Southern Alliance for Clean Energy
Founded in 1985, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy is a nonprofit organization that promotes responsible energy choices that work to address the impacts of global climate change and ensure clean, safe, and healthy communities throughout the Southeast. Learn more at