All S.C. Utilities Now Committed to Removing Coal Ash Out of Lagoons
~~CHAPEL HILL, N.C.— Representing Upstate Forever and Save Our Saluda, the Southern Environmental Law Center today announced an agreement in principle with Duke Energy to remove all of its coal ash at its W.S. Lee facility from the banks of the Saluda River near Greenville and Anderson, South Carolina, to safer, dry lined storage away from the river.
“With this announcement, our advocacy and litigation have obtained commitments from all public utilities in South Carolina to clean up leaking coal ash lagoons on South Carolina’s rivers,” said Frank Holleman, senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center. “This is a historic accomplishment for South Carolina’s rivers and clean water. Today, Duke Energy has agreed to do the right thing in South Carolina and move over 3.2 million tons of its coal ash from the banks of the Saluda River to safer, dry lined storage. ”
The Southern Environmental Law Center and its clients have been urging Duke Energy to take this step for months. The Southern Environmental Law Center presented to the South Carolina Public Service Commission in March and September of 2014 urging removal of the coal ash from the unlined and leaking lagoons to safer, dry lined storage away from the rivers.
“This is a great day for our upstate water resources and South Carolina,” said Brad Wyche, executive director of Upstate Forever. “For years, we’ve worked to restore the Saluda watershed, and the removal of this industrial waste from the Saluda’s banks is a historic accomplishment.”
In 2012, the Southern Environmental Law Center obtained a settlement with SCE&G to clean up 2.4 million tons of coal ash on the Wateree River near Columbia. The center obtained a settlement with Santee Cooper in 2013 to clean up over 1 million tons of coal ash on the Waccamaw River in Conway. At the same time, Santee Cooper committed to clean up all 11 million tons it stores along rivers in South Carolina.
In today’s announcement, Duke Energy committed itself to remove all the coal ash on the Lee site to dry, lined storage away from the river, including the ash in two leaking lagoons and in an ash storage area near the lagoons. In a September 2014 agreement with the Southern Environmental Law Center, Upstate Forever, and Save Our Saluda, Duke Energy had already committed to remove coal ash from two other storage areas on the Saluda River’s banks at the Lee facility.
“Once the coal ash is removed, a major threat to the Saluda River will be eliminated,” said Nick Anastos, board member of Save Our Saluda. “The removal of this ash helps us to save our Saluda River from the effects of long-term pollution.”
Over recent months, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control and the Southern Environmental Law Center raised serious questions about the safety of the dams holding back the coal ash on the Saluda River. These dams have failed to meet minimum industry safety standards for years. S.C. DHEC had instructed Duke Energy to address dam safety issues, and Duke Energy has now decided to close the lagoons, eliminate the dams, and move the ash to safe storage.
Duke Energy also stores coal ash at its Robinson facility in Darlington County, South Carolina, and has not announced cleanup plans for that site.
The Southern Environmental Law Center is a regional nonprofit using the power of the law to protect the health and environment of the Southeast (Virginia, Tennessee, North and South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama). Founded in 1986, SELC's team of more than 60 legal and policy experts represent more than 100 partner groups on issues of climate change and energy, air and water quality, forests, the coast and wetlands, transportation, and land use.
Upstate Forever is a § 501(c)(3) non-profit public interest organization operating in South Carolina, including the counties in the Saluda River Watershed. Upstate Forever has over 1900 members and works specifically in Greenville and Anderson Counties, with hundreds of members in those counties.
Save our Saluda is a volunteer § 501 (c) (3) non-profit public interest organization operating in Upstate South Carolina, including the counties in the Saluda River Watershed. Save Our Saluda is “an active citizens group with a voice to protect the Saluda watershed and its natural resources.” The mission of Save Our Saluda is: “Protecting and restoring the Saluda watershed through environmental awareness and citizen action.”