Press Release | December 27, 2016

Duke Energy Removes 650,000 Tons of Coal Ash from Banks of Saluda River in South Carolina

Chapel Hill, N.C.-Under a settlement negotiated by the Southern Environmental Law Center, Duke Energy has removed over 650,000 tons of coal ash from unlined, leaking pits on the Saluda River near Williamston, South Carolina.  The 2015 settlement, negotiated on behalf of Upstate Forever and Save Our Saluda, requires Duke Energy to remove all its coal ash stored beside the Saluda River at Duke Energy's W.S. Lee facility in Anderson County.  Duke Energy has now removed over 15 percent of the ash at its Saluda River facility; Duke Energy had stored 3.6 million tons of coal ash at the site.

“This first step makes this coal ash site safer and removes ash from unlined old pits right on the banks of the Saluda,” said Frank Holleman, senior attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center.  “As this cleanup moves forward, coal ash pollution of the Saluda River will drop.”

The removal was reported by Duke Energy to the conservation groups this month in a report required by the settlement.  The coal ash was moved to a dry, lined landfill in Homer, Georgia.  Duke Energy plans to store most of the ash removed from the site in an on-site, lined landfill separated from the groundwater and located away from the Saluda River.

“The volume of toxic coal ash stored at these sites so close to the Saluda River was staggering,” said Melanie Ruhlman, President of Save Our Saluda.  “Removal of the ash to safe lined storage facilities is a major accomplishment towards long-term improvement and protection of the river.”

Duke Energy has five years to remove all the coal ash from its old coal ash storage pits on the banks of the river and 10 years to remove its ash from all the unlined pits at the site.

“This is the only unlined utility coal ash storage site in the Upstate, and now the removal of that coal ash is well underway,” said Andrea Cooper, executive director of Upstate Forever.  “The removal of this ash is a major step forward in protecting the Upstate's rivers from industrial pollution.”

In addition to removal of coal ash, the report sets out numerous steps that were taken to correct unsafe conditions at the coal ash dams on the site.


Duke Energy stores coal ash at two locations in South Carolina, at W.S. Lee in Williamston and at its Robinson Plant in Darlington.  After public efforts by conservation groups, Duke Energy agreed to remove all its coal ash from unlined storage at both sites.  All of South Carolina’s utilities are removing all their coal ash from unlined, waterfront storage.  In North Carolina, Duke Energy is required by court order or settlement agreement to remove all its coal ash from unlined storage at eight of its 14 North Carolina sites.  Duke Energy continues to face litigation for its coal ash pollution at its remaining six unlined, leaking sites, in the Catawba River, Broad River, and Dan River Basins.



The Southern Environmental Law Center is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. With nine offices across the region (Charlottesville, VA; Chapel Hill, NC; Atlanta, GA; Charleston, SC; Washington, DC; Birmingham, AL; Nashville, TN; Asheville, NC; and Richmond, VA), SELC is widely recognized as the Southeast’s foremost environmental organization and regional leader. SELC works on a full range of environmental issues to protect the South’s natural resources and the health and well-being of all the people in our region.

Are you a reporter and would like more information? Please visit our press contact page for a full list of SELC’s press contacts.

Press Contacts

Frank Holleman

Senior Attorney with a focus on litigation

Phone: 919-967-1450

Kathleen Sullivan

Senior Communications Manager (NC)

Phone: 919-945-7106
Email: [email protected]