Protecting People and the Environment
Duke Energy is a highly regulated company that must comply with numerous state and federal environmental regulations for air quality, groundwater and surface water quality, and waste management. These safeguards have been established by state and federal regulators to protect human health and the environment. Duke Energy performs scientific monitoring at all coal ash facilities across our fleet to demonstrate that public health and the environment are protected.
Duke Energy and independent experts have conducted extensive environmental studies of groundwater, surface water, aquatic health, fish populations and air quality to ensure the company complies with strict permits and state and federal regulations to protect public health and the environment. We take all appropriate steps to make certain that drinking water, lakes and rivers are not impacted by our operations, and our industry-leading work to close ash basins and improve groundwater will keep water supplies protected. Duke Energy has undertaken a holistic approach to upgrade our facilities and close all ash basins, ensuring we are making smart investments for our customers and communities.
Studies confirm the public and environment are well-protected
Scientific monitoring has been underway for decades – nearly 60 years at some sites – allowing Duke Energy, state and federal regulatory agencies and other stakeholders to see long-term trends and confirm environmental conditions remain healthy for aquatic life and human use. This data also serves as a baseline for showing how conditions continue to improve as we remove water from basins and move forward with closure.
Scientific studies overseen by state regulators and reviewed by independent experts confirm ash basins are not affecting neighbors' drinking water wells. Duke Energy has been extremely proactive in assessing risks and addressing potential issues, including providing permanent water supplies for neighbors to provide peace of mind about drinking water safety.
How is coal ash produced?
For decades, reliable, affordable electricity was made possible by coal. Coal-fired power plants burn coal to make steam, and the steam turns turbines to generate electricity. When that coal is burned, the inorganic matter in the coal becomes coal ash. For decades, utilities across the nation have stored that ash in basins. Duke Energy is permanently closing all ash basins across our system and we've made significant progress, completing closure at several sites and taking nearly all ash basins out of service.
Is it hazardous?Coal ash is regulated as a nonhazardous substance by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Coal ash contains substances found in soils and rocks at similar concentrations, with less than 1% trace elements such as metals. And just like rocks and soils, the mere presence of these elements does not equate to toxicity – it is exposure and dose that matters. EPA and other regulatory agencies have conducted studies to understand how people living near ash facilities may be exposed, which underpins the regulations Duke Energy must comply with and the management practices we use to protect public health.
Detailed information on what we are doing to comply with the federal coal ash rule at each of our facilities is publicly posted on this website.
Science instead of speculation – examining coal ash and health concerns
EPRI Fact Sheet on Coal Ash and Human Health
Coal Ash: The Truth About Toxicity