Coal Ash Handling Problems Continue for One Utility


Earlier in October, a Southern utility was dealt another setback by the courts when a U.S. District Court judge rejected the energy company’s latest motion to dismiss claims from environmentalist groups.

The decision continues a legal action initiated against the utility by the Yadkin Riverkeeper and Waterkeeper Alliance, regarding claims that the company violated the Clean Water Act of 1972 with its Buck facility on the Yadkin River in North Carolina. Specifically, they claim there was significant seepage at the coal ash handling facility that contributed to environmental contamination.

Thanks to the court, the group’s claim can continue.

More Legal Trouble

This utility already made the news earlier this year when it settled with the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality and paid just $7 million in penalties for the Dan River spill in 2014, when tons of coal residue leaked into the river, causing widespread contamination.

The fine was originally $25 million, but the settlement reduced it by a significant amount, to the consternation of state environmental groups.

There’s no telling how damaging the latest Yadkin River case will be for the beleaguered utility company. The company has already been forced to either clean up or close 14 coal ash handling lagoons across the state, a process that will cost the company tens of millions of dollars over the next 15 years.

The settlement actually contained language to preclude any further legal claims against the company’s coal ash handling facilities – but that barrier came crashing down in October with the Yadkin River decision.

Now the utility ostensibly is open to further legal action for its coal handling procedures, leaving the company vulnerable.

Resolving Coal Ash Handling Problems

Companies like this utility are also vulnerable to similar claims, especially if they have followed the same coal ash handling procedures that the utility has over their lifetime of operation.

Better ash handling procedures and infrastructure is needed to handle new regulations on emissions controls, and ensure that as much is being done as possible to limit liability. This often means retrofitting an existing plant with the latest technology, which, for efficiency’s sake, should include a custom-designed coal ash handling system engineered for exact specifications.

Contact ProcessBarron for more information on efficient coal ash handling equipment for your facility.