South Carolina coal ash removal ahead of schedule while North Carolina stalls

Workers walk past a coal ash cleanup underway at Santee Coopers’ Grainger plant in Conway, S.C. (© Hollis Bennett)

As Duke Energy stalls on moving ash at seven of its 14 unlined, leaking coal ash sites across North Carolina, South Carolina utility Santee Cooper reports that it has removed one-third of the coal ash from its Grainger plant’s coal ash pits ahead of schedule. The coal ash is being removed under a settlement between clients represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center – the Waccamaw Riverkeeper, the South Carolina Coastal Conservation League, and the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy – and Santee Cooper. That settlement was entered into in November of 2013, following a year and a half of litigation.

In a January 2016 report, Santee Cooper sets outs that, in 2015, it removed over 284,000 tons of coal ash from the Grainger coal ash lagoons, which are along the Waccamaw River in Conway, S.C. In 2014, Santee Cooper previously reported the removal of over 164,000 tons of ash – for a total of almost 450,000 tons of coal ash removed from the Grainger site. At this rate, Santee Cooper will finish its removal by the end of 2019, four years ahead of schedule. The Grainger settlement agreement requires complete removal by the end of 2023.

“Santee Cooper is removing coal ash from unlined pits on the Waccamaw River and is far ahead of schedule,” said Senior Attorney Frank Holleman. “Santee Cooper’s work shows that utilities throughout the South can clean up their unlined coal ash storage by moving ash to safe, dry, lined storage or recycling it for concrete. The Waccamaw River and the Conway community are cleaner and safer, and all communities with unlined coal ash pits deserve the same treatment.”

Holleman has been invited to share his knowledge of coal ash clean ups before the U.S. Senate’s Environment and Public Works committee this session as they consider federal coal ash standards.

In South Carolina, thanks to agreements with the conservation groups represented by SELC, the utilities in the state agreed to remove all their coal ash stored in unlined pits to dry, lined storage away from the rivers and groundwater or to recycle it for concrete. Coal ash is being removed by Santee Cooper at its Grainger (Horry County), Jeffries (Berkeley County), and Winyah (Georgetown County) facilities. Duke Energy is removing coal ash from its Lee (Anderson County) facility and has committed to remove its ash from its unlined pit at Robinson (Darlington County). SCE&G has committed to remove all its ash from unlined riverfront pits to dry lined storage and already is moving ash from its Wateree facility (Richland County).

SELC also represents local conservation groups in North Carolina who are pushing Duke Energy to clean up all its leaking, waterfront unlined coal ash storage across that state. Duke Energy has agreed to remove the ash from seven of its 14 unlined coal ash storage sites, but continues to fight efforts to clean up its coal ash storage at the remaining seven leaking coal ash sites throughout North Carolina. These leaking North Carolina coal ash sites include rivers that flow into South Carolina – the Broad River and the Catawba River.

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