Duke Energy asks city if it can move coal ash to airport - WBTV 3 News, Weather, Sports, and Traffic for Charlotte, NC

Duke Energy asks city if it can move coal ash to airport

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CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) -

Charlotte has a big decision to make. Right now, millions of tons of toxic coal ash sits just outside the city's borders, but Duke Energy is asking if it can move the ash in.

The purpose  would be to get the ash away from Charlotte's main source of drinking water, Mountain Island Lake.  Duke would bury the ash at Charlotte Douglas International Airport.

Soon after Duke Energy announced its complex proposal, the city and airport officials who will be delving into the details for city council called a press conference.

"This is obviously a major issue for the community with so much of our drinking water being impacted but we don't want to rush into a decision that's going to create another problem," said Charlotte Energy and Sustainability Manager Robert Phocas.

Duke's request comes in response to Governor Pat McCrory, who said he wants the ash moved, and one reason the company suggested the airport is because of all the development going on there.

If the ash is stored in closed containers, Duke says it can be used as a filler on development projects.

"What that development is yet to be determined," explained Deputy Aviation Director Jack Christine, "but there's a lot of projects that we have on our airport layout plan. Some of those projects will require fill..."

Typically, that means moving dirt from one part of Charlotte Douglas to another, but what if the airport uses the coal ash?  Duke claims it could save the city money. But the officials I spoke with today said that won't sway them. They say they care about safety first.

"We need to reach out to other people who are familiar with coal ash, we need to reach out to the community," Phocas said.

The city says it will hold town halls, and take a look at Asheville, which did something similar at its airport, burying ash from a former Progress Energy power station under six feet of dirt.

"We will look at this from every possible angle, both the environmental aspects of it and the public safety aspects of it, plus the impact on neighborhoods," said Assistant City Manager Hyong U Yi.

Duke Energy executives will pitch their proposal to City Council on March 24.

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