Coal ash cleanup compromise clears House Committee

Coal ash concerns

RALEIGH, NC (WBTV/AP) - The North Carolina General Assembly is nearly ready to offer cheaper ways for Duke Energy to clean up toxic coal ash authorities declared a public health risk in May.

A House committee recommended Wednesday that the full chamber approve legislation that would allow Duke Energy to dry out the watery pits and close them in place rather than excavating all the toxic residue.

The proposal would require the company supply plant neighbors with safe drinking water by October 2018 and fortify unsafe dams around some pits.

RELATED: DEQ: All coal ash ponds must close by 2024

The bill only requires Duke to provide water to neighbors within a half-mile of the coal ash pits. The Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) would be responsible for determining who else received water.

Water tests, as part of an On Your Side Investigation, found water wells within a half-mile to eight-tenths of a mile from a Duke coal pond in western Cleveland County with elevated levels of hexavalent chromium.

A spokeswoman for Duke says elevated levels of the toxic chemical were not caused by coal ash, but environment experts say differently.

RELATED: Duke: Will take decades to excavate coal ash basins

The cleanup proposal has been backed by the Department of Environmental Quality.

The full Senate passed the bill Tuesday. The bill now heads to the full House for concurrence.

Thursday night at 6 p.m., On Your Side Investigates reporter Nick Ochsner digs into concerns about the water in an effort to get neighbors the help they need.

Copyright 2016 WBTV. The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved.