By: Travis Archie
On Monday, March 14 at the Boiling Springs Town Hall, a meeting was held in regards to how the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality, D.E.Q, would handle the Duke Power coal ash ponds that are in the local area. This has been a hot topic within N.C. after the coal ash spilled into the Dan River in February 2014.
Power plants like Cliffside use coal to heat up the water which creates steam that turns the turbines, producing electricity. The remaining material is called coal ash and has detrimental effects on the environment. There are six coal ash ponds and one land field of coal ash in Cleveland County. The meeting held at town hall was to inform the local community of the future plans the state government will take toward cleaning up the coal ash ponds.
“Intermediate level coal ash ponds will be cleaned up by Dec. 31, 2024 while low level ponds will be cleaned up by Dec.31, 2029,” said Zahid Khan, attorney of the N.C. D.E.Q. Various levels of ponds exist in N.C.
Khan also mentioned that, “there has been no contamination in local community’s water supply which have been proven by our experts and outside experts.” The water tests were conducted 15 feet below the ground and 1500 feet downstream from the ponds and landfill.
However, not everyone in the community agrees with the findings. Rodger Harris, a local who spoke at the meeting, talked about “the forgotten part of Cleveland county” a few miles east of Gardner-Webb. Harris said, “In this area, we have 11 ground water wells that are deemed unsafe to drink from and wash in.” He said this was told to him by Duke Power and claimed they have delivered bottled water to the residents of the community.
Another speaker from the community was Representative Katie Hicks from Clean Water for N.C. Hicks also criticized the gaps in the D.E.Q. findings. “I do not believe the results done by the D.E.Q. are accurate because they only show the findings of the water quality that is [downhill] from the coal ash ponds, not the quality of the water around the affected areas,” said Hicks.
The D.E.Q. said they will continue to take comments from the public through email at deq.nc.gov until April
18, 2016 in which all comments will result in the final decision of what actions will be taken to eliminate this environmental threat.