Three decades later …

The fact that coal ash could be dangerous to human health is nothing new, come to find out: the State of N.C. and Duke Energy knew as early as 25 years ago, public records reveal

Many current-day environment activists accuse the state of being too chummy with Duke Energy. But once upon a time – back when Duke Energy was Duke Power – some state environmental officials pushed back against the energy giant.

In as early as 1994, Duke started petitioning the state to relax its rules on coal ash when it needed to off some of the ash – the toxic byproduct of burning coal – collecting at its power plants. It argued that the state’s requirement to record locations of “structural fill” – or sites where coal ash was essentially used as dirt – was “a barrier to the beneficial use” of coal ash.

But state environment officials urged against a change in the rules, warning of potential consequences to the environment and human health. In a July 6, 1994 letter to Duke Power’s environmental affairs manager, William L. Meyer of the N.C. Department of Environment, Health and Natural Resources said the state requires infill sites to be recorded “to provide notice to future property owners of potential environmental contamination.” Another concern: “worker safety from repairs or reconstruction with respect to inhalation of fine material contained in the ash.”

In a Dec. 28, 1994 interdepartmental memo, Meyer said before changing the rules on coal ash, “more scientific data” was needed.

Almost three decades later, we’re still hearing the same thing. 

The data doesn’t exist. 

But what does exist: a documented thyroid cancer cluster in a town with more structural coal ash fill sites than anywhere else in North Carolina. Between 1995 and 2001, 1.24 million tons of coal ash was hauled from Marshall Steam Station and used as structural fill for commercial development along Mooresville’s N.C. 150. 

So, what happened to the state? Why was Duke allowed to dump so much coal ash when state environmentalists were raising red flags about potential risks to the environment and human health? Which rules – if any – were relaxed for Duke Power? We know that coal ash sites, even after the dates of these documents, were supposed to be recorded. We also know all of them weren’t …


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About Author

Hi! I’m Jaime

I was a newspaper reporter in Mooresville, NC for a decade and covered local government issues from 2003 to 2006.


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