Want to help speed up coal ash cleanup near Charlotte? Here’s how.

Want to help speed up coal ash cleanup near Charlotte? Here’s how.

CHARLOTTE, NC (Bruce Henderson/The Charlotte Observer) - North Carolina regulators are seeking public input on a proposal to speed up cleanup of coal ash at three Duke Energy power plants near Charlotte.

State law gives Duke until 2029 to close its ash ponds, which hold metals that can contaminate water supplies across the state. A proposed consent order would accelerate that timetable for ponds at the Allen power plant in Gaston County, the Marshall plant on Lake Norman and the Rogers plant in Rutherford County.

Written comments on the proposal – an agreement between Duke and the state Environmental Management Commission – may be submitted between Wednesday and Feb. 14. A public hearing will be held Feb. 13 in Lincolnton.

The Department of Environmental Quality will consider those comments before sending the proposed order to the state Environmental Management Commission, which must approve the proposal before it can take effect.

Under the order, Duke would drain water from ash ponds by 2020 at the Allen and Rogers power plants and by 2021 at Marshall. Duke also agrees to pay an $84,000 fine for leaking polluted water from the ponds into the Catawba and Broad rivers. Draining the ponds is expected to eliminate or reduce those leaks, which are called seeps.

Duke agrees to pay additional fines if it doesn't meet deadlines or other conditions of the proposed order.