Press Release | July 30, 2013

Catawba/Wateree Coal Ash Removal in South Carolina Ahead of Schedule

In a report filed under a settlement with the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation, SCE&G reported that it has removed 280,000 tons of coal ash from its coal ash lagoons on the banks of the Catawba/Wateree River outside Columbia, South Carolina.  The company removed the ash to a lined landfill for dry storage, away from the Catawba/Wateree River.  In addition, SCE&G converted its plant to dry handling of bottom ash, to eliminate its riskier wet storage in the lagoons.

Frank Holleman, senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center, who represented the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation in the settlement stated:  “SCE&G is demonstrating that utilities can convert from risky and polluting storage of coal ash in unlined lagoons on the banks of rivers to safer dry storage in monitored lined landfills away from the river’s banks.  If SCE&G can take these responsible steps on the Catawba/Wateree River near Columbia, there is no reason why Duke Energy cannot do the same thing on the same river for Mountain Island Lake, to protect Charlotte’s drinking water reservoir.”

The report was filed in accordance with a settlement of a suit filed in United States District Court by the Southern Environmental Law Center on behalf of the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation.  Under the settlement, SCE&G agreed to empty out its coal ash lagoons on the banks of the Wateree River, three miles upstream from the Congaree National Park.  The lagoons contained approximately 2.7 million tons of coal ash.  SCE&G’s removal is ahead of schedule.  Under the settlement, the lagoons are scheduled to be completely emptied by December 31, 2020.

The Southern Environmental Law Center has also filed legal actions on behalf of the Catawba Riverkeeper to clean up Duke Energy’s leaking, unlined coal ash lagoons on the banks of the Catawba River at Mountain Island Lake, the drinking water reservoir for Charlotte, Mecklenburg County, Gastonia, and Mount Holly.  Those lagoons contain approximately the same amount of coal ash as the SCE&G lagoons, 2.6 million tons.  Arsenic has been found in the Lake’s sediments by scientists at Duke University, and the foundation found arsenic and cobalt in water leaking from the lagoons into the lake.  The North Carolina Department of the Environment and Natural Resources found that Duke Energy is acting illegally in polluting the lake, but DENR and Duke Energy have proposed a settlement that would not require clean up of the pollution or removal of the ash, but would instead require only further study.  The Riverkeeper is urging members of the public to comment in opposition to the Duke-DENR deal.  The comment period closes on August 14.

Sam Perkins, the Catawba Riverkeeper, stated:  “The Catawba River in North Carolina should have the same protections as the Catawba/Wateree River in South Carolina.  Our drinking water reservoir should not be polluted and at risk from millions of tons of coal ash, when another utility on the same river is taking responsible steps to eliminate pollution and protect the River in South Carolina.  If SCE&G can do the right thing for the Catawba/Wateree in South Carolina, Duke Energy can do the right thing for the Catawba River, the Charlotte area, and Mountain Island Lake.”

About the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation
The Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation is a nonprofit organization with members in South and North Carolina that works to protect and restore the Catawba/Wateree River and its watershed.

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Press Contacts

Frank Holleman

Senior Attorney with a focus on litigation

Phone: 919-967-1450