The N.C. Department of Environmental Quality announced all coal ash in the remaining unlined sites in the state will be excavated and moved to lined landfills.

After collecting public comments and reviewing Duke Energy’s closure proposals, the department has decided to require complete excavation of steam plants including Marshall in Sherrills Ford, as well as the Allen, Belews, Cliffside/Rogers, Mayo and Roxboro plants.

There were three possible types of closure including cap in place, where the coal ash would be left on site and covered with an impermeable cap; excavation, where all the coal ash is relocated to a lined landfill; and a hybrid approach where excavation and cap in place are combined.

Duke preferred the cap in place option, describing it as the quickest and cheapest option with the least amount of community impact.

“DEQ rigorously reviewed the proposals, and the science points us clearly to excavation as the only way to protect public health and the environment,” said DEQ Secretary Michael S. Regan. “Today’s action sends another clear message that protecting public health and natural resources is a top priority of the Cooper Administration.”

Duke will now have until Aug. 1 to submit final excavation closure plans for the coal ash impoundments.

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