News | April 16, 2015

SELC uncovers extensive coal ash pollution on popular South Carolina lake

A careful search of public records by SELC has revealed that the amount of toxic coal ash stored at Duke Energy’s H.B. Robinson facility near Hartsville, SC, is much greater than originally reported. Although Duke said last year that the now closed facility housed 660,000 tons of coal ash, SELC has uncovered a far more troubling story: The site actually contains nearly 4 million tons of ash in an unlined 93-acre basin on the shores of Lake Robinson, a popular spot for fisherman, boaters, and swimmers.

At 660,000 tons, Robinson would have been Duke’s smallest coal ash impoundment in the Carolinas. Instead, its 3.9 million tons make it the company’s largest coal ash basin in South Carolina and over three times as large as its Dan River facility in North Carolina, site of a February 2014 coal ash spill.

There are other problems at Robinson: Low-level radioactive waste was dumped into the ash basin during the 1980s and 1990s. The ash is also stored deep in the site’s groundwater, which is contaminated with high levels of arsenic. All of these problems have made Robinson one of the top priorities in SELC’s coal ash cleanup initiative.

Robinson is the last commercial site in the state without a plan for cleanup. SELC has already negotiated a binding agreement with Duke to clean up its other South Carolina coal ash impoundment, the W.S. Lee plant near Williamston. And we have reached agreements with the state’s other two major utilities, Santee Cooper and SCE&G, which are both ahead of schedule in cleaning up their ash.

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