Press Release | August 8, 2017

Over 2 Million Tons of Coal Ash Removed from Banks of Wateree River Near Columbia

Chapel Hill, N.C.—Under a settlement agreement with the Southern Environmental Law Center and the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation, SCE&G reports that over 2 million tons of coal ash and underlying soil have been removed from its coal ash lagoon on the banks of the Wateree River near Columbia, South Carolina.  The coal ash lagoon was estimated to contain approximately 2.4 million tons of coal ash originally, and this report shows that the cleanup is over 75 percent complete.  As the coal ash has been removed, arsenic contamination of groundwater has plummeted.  The levels of arsenic have dropped over 90 percent since the settlement was reached in 2012 and extensive coal ash removal began.

“The progress at Wateree demonstrates that utilities can store their coal ash responsibly and protect our rivers and water resources,” said Frank Holleman, senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center.  “This section of the Wateree River is cleaner and safer than it has been in decades.”

In January 2012, the Southern Environmental Law Center filed suit against SCE&G on behalf of the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation, seeking to require the removal of the coal ash from the unlined pit beside the Wateree River.  The coal ash pollution of the Wateree River had been a matter of public controversy for years.  In August of 2012, SCE&G entered into a settlement agreement with the Southern Environmental Law Center and the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation requiring removal of the coal ash and contaminated soil from the site.

“This report shows what utilities can do to protect our rivers and communities from coal ash pollution,” said Sam Perkins, the Catawba Riverkeeper.  “This is a simple, common sense solution that is cleaning up contaminated water and removing failure risk. There is no good reason why Duke Energy can’t implement this solution for its leaking, unlined polluting coal ash pits at Allen and Marshall near drinking water intakes around Charlotte. The coal ash at Allen and Marshall should be going into concrete to fuel the Charlotte region’s booming growth and not sitting idle while we import ash from Asia.”

All of South Carolina’s utilities are committed to remove all their coal ash from unlined riverside pits and move it to lined, dry storage or recycle it into cement and concrete.  In North Carolina, due to a criminal plea agreement, court orders, and a settlement agreement, Duke Energy is now obligated to remove its coal ash from eight of 14 sites in the state, including Riverbend also on the Catawba-Wateree River at Mountain Island Lake.  The Southern Environmental Law Center and the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation also brought an enforcement action against Duke Energy for its coal ash pollution at Riverbend, which resulted in a court order requiring excavation of the coal ash at that site.  Duke Energy’s operating companies also pleaded guilty to coal ash crimes at the Riverbend site.  However, Duke Energy continues to refuse to remove its coal ash from unlined leaking pits at six riverside sites in North Carolina, including two sites on the Catawba-Wateree River:  Marshall on Lake Norman and Allen on Lake Wylie.

The Southern Environmental Law Center and the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation are in court in North Carolina enforcing the law against Duke Energy for its coal ash pollution at Marshall and Allen and continue to urge Duke Energy to clean up those sites, as is happening at Wateree.

About the Southern Environmental Law Center:
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.  

About the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation:
The Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation advocates for the health, protection and enjoyment of the Catawba-Wateree River watershed. The Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation provides education, processes and programs to protect drinking water and the many resources of the entire Catawba-Wateree River watershed. Catawba Riverkeeper’s experienced network includes a diverse community of members, engaged volunteers and professional staff whose dedication of time, talent and resources protect and enhance our river today and for future generations. The vision of Catawba Riverkeeper is for the waters of the entire Catawba-Wateree River basin to always be of high quality and abundant quantity to sustain and enhance the lives of all the humans, the wildlife and the ecosystems that depend on it. 

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

Kathleen Sullivan

Senior Communications Manager (NC)

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