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Duke Energy Plans for Removal of Coal Ash at Cape Fear Plant

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We are including key reports or information related to Duke Energy's closure of the Cape Fear Power Plant in the Moncure area.

As you may recall, the N.C. General Assembly passed the Coal Ash Management Act (CAMA) in 2014. According to the process outlined in the law, the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has proposed risk rankings which will ultimately determine how coal ash basins in North Carolina should be closed. Final classifications for each basin are either high, intermediate or low. The classifications outline a timeline and guidance on closure options.

With groundwater safety at the forefront, Duke Energy submitted comprehensive groundwater assessments to N.C. DEQ for each of the 14 coal plants in North Carolina. Results for Cape Fear Steam Electric Plant indicate:

  • Groundwater near ash basins is flowing away from neighbors' properties. 
  • There are no private wells in the nearby vicinity. 
  •  The area where groundwater is affected is confined to Duke Energy property and is primarily near the ash basin.

Additional information on Duke Energy's coal ash management for the Cape Fear Plant is available by clicking here 


The N.C. Department of Environmental Quality (NCDEQ) sent a letter this week to the plant neighbors who are eligible for water provision per the new coal ash law. We will follow up with those who are eligible to let them know how they can request temporary water. We will also send a letter to eligible residents who are currently receiving bottled water (none yet in Chatham County) to let them know we are researching options for permanent water provision and will share more information in the near future.

  • Duke Energy is making good progress safely closing coal ash basins in North Carolina. As part of recent updates to the state’s coal ash law, the company will offer permanent, alternative water supplies to plant neighbors within a half-mile of our North Carolina coal ash basins by October 2018. In the meantime, we will offer temporary water to neighbors who live within a half-mile. 
  • The new law requires we provide water regardless of whether a neighbor’s well has been affected. We are hopeful that the availability of this alternative will provide peace of mind to all concerned. 
  • We are prepared to begin water deliveries to any eligible plant neighbors beginning in September. If customers decline the offer to receive temporary water, it will not impact their ability to receive a new permanent water supply at a later time. We are beginning to research options for providing a permanent water supply in your area and will share more information in the near future. 
  • We will offer well testing (at no cost) by a third-party, state-certified laboratory for any interested plant neighbors who live within a half-mile. 
  • We understand the importance of protecting neighbors’ groundwater, and this has driven our monitoring program, thorough studies and work toward closing ash basins. Duke Energy remains committed to operating our facilities and closing ash basins in ways that are safe for groundwater and the communities we serve.


On May 18, 2016, the state environmental department today released proposed classifications for all coal ash ponds in North Carolina, while at the same time asking the General Assembly to allow the reconsideration of those classifications 18 months from now. The classifications are based on the current risk of each pond’s impact on public health and the environment. However, work that is already either planned or underway could significantly change the risk posed by the ponds.

“The deadlines in the coal ash law are too compressed to allow adequate repairs to be completed,” said Donald R. van der Vaart, secretary of the state environmental department. “It also does not allow for revisions to the classifications based on new information about a pond’s risk to public health and the environment.”

The proposed classifications include the eight mandated as high priority under the law, and 25 classified by today’s action as intermediate. High risk ponds must be dug up and closed by 2019 and intermediate ponds must be dug up and closed by 2024. The main risk factors driving today’s classifications were dam deficiencies that are currently being repaired, and potential impacts to nearby groundwater. Recent discussions indicate that providing nearby residents permanent alternative water will relieve any future concerns.

“The focus of the coal ash law was to safely close all coal ash ponds in North Carolina,” continued Secretary van der Vaart. “The intent was not to set pond closure deadlines based on incomplete information. Making decisions based on incomplete information could lead to the expenditure of billions of dollars when spending millions now would provide equal or better protection. The understanding we have today reflects countless hours of scientific and technical work by both state engineers and Duke Energy as well as thousands of comments by the public.” 

Although no dams present an imminent risk to life or property, a number of ponds were rated intermediate because of unfinished repairs. State regulators will use their existing legal authority to ensure those repairs are completed by the end of this year. 

The residents’ well water meets federal requirements for safe drinking water. However, Duke Energy has submitted a study that evaluates the feasibility of supplying permanent alternative water to nearby residents. The state environmental department will recommend to the General Assembly that the classifications be re-evaluated after the dam safety repairs are made and the utility provides these permanent alternative water sources to nearby well owners.

These proposed classifications will become final 60 days from today.

For a map of the proposed classifications for each coal ash impoundment, click here.
A table that shows the risk factors that determined each pond’s classification can be found here.


December 2015:  PART 1: Duke Energy's Corrective Action Plan filed with NC Dept. of Environmental Quality. Click here to view full report

February 2016:  PART 2: Duke Energy's Corrective Action Plan filed with NC Dept. of Environmental Quality:   Click here to view full report.

September 2016: Duke Energy's Comprehensive Site Assessment Supplement for Cape Fear Plant,  Click here for report.