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DEQ Seeks Input on Draft Coal Ash Rules

This annotated historical photo shows the locations of active and inactive coal ash ponds at the H.F. Lee plant on the Neuse River. Photo: Waterkeeper Alliance

RALEIGH – The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality seeks public feedback on rules in the works to better protect public health and the environment when coal ash wastes are disposed of and recycled.

DEQ has scheduled three meetings in February to gather public comments on the draft state rules. The meetings will be held at 6 p.m. on the following schedule:

  • Feb. 12 at the Person County Office Building Auditorium, 304 South Morgan St., Roxboro.
  • Feb. 20 in the Myers Center Meeting Rooms at Gaston College, 201 Highway 321 South, Dallas.
  • Feb. 22 in the U-170 building at Cape Fear Community College, 411 North Front St., Wilmington.

DEQ staff will be on hand to provide a presentation about the rules. State officials will then open the floor to anyone wishing to provide feedback on the rules and will record those comments. Those wishing to speak are asked to register between 5:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. If any time remains after the public comment session concludes, DEQ staff will be available to answer questions.

Comments may be submitted in writing at any time through March 22. Public comments can be sent by email to Include “CCR Rules” in the subject line.

DEQ plans to present a final draft to the full North Carolina Environmental Management Commission, or EMC, in May before a 60-day formal public comment period starts this summer. DEQ said it will consider those comments and then present final draft rules to the full EMC for adoption. If the rules are approved by the EMC, they will then be presented to the Rules Review Commission, which has the final say on whether to approve the rules.

The rules address coal combustion residuals, which includes coal ash, a waste product generated when coal is burned to generate electricity. DEQ said the waste is increasingly being removed from coal ash impoundments at North Carolina power plants and transported to either landfills engineered to be protective of the environment and human health or to recycling facilities where it is used to manufacture construction products such as cement, concrete blocks and wall board.

The draft rules incorporate specific requirements from federal rules enacted by the Environmental Protection Agency in 2015 that outline how coal ash landfills are to be designed, constructed and operated. The 90-plus pages of draft rules are intended to be more protective of public health and the environment than existing rules for coal ash disposal and storage.

Existing state rules require the operators to build coal ash landfills with protective lining to prevent contamination of groundwater as well as systems for collecting wastewater and regular environmental monitoring.

The new rules would add detailed criteria for how the landfills are to be constructed, restrict what sites are suitable for coal ash landfills and widen the buffers between the landfill and adjoining properties, streams and rivers.

The draft rules require operators to inspect the landfills weekly and post the findings from those inspections on a publicly-accessible website. A similar, but shorter rule is being proposed to address dam safety at coal ash impoundments.

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Staff Report

The story was compiled by staff members of Coastal Review Online.