Do you live near a coal ash disposal site?

Do you live near a coal ash disposal site?

- in Environment, Top Story
The purple diamonds signify areas in northeastern North Carolina where coal ash has been used for structural fill and/or beneficial reuse. There are at least 90 such areas and projects in North Carolina. However, it’s difficult to know the precise number because in the 1950s and 1960s, when regulations were weaker or non-existent, coal ash was dumped without monitoring or oversight. (Map: NC DEQ)

Note: Scroll to the bottom of the story to view a table listing all of the known coal combustion residual structural fill projects in the state, listed by county. This list does not include coal ash landfills designed to merely store the material.

The Family Dollar store on East Second Street in downtown Weldon is a convenient spot for kayakers to grab a bottle of water and a bag of snacks before heading to the Roanoke River just three blocks away. But in late 2009 and early 2010, state environmental inspectors learned that coal ash from Roanoke Valley Energy, whose material three years earlier had been used to build the parking lot, was seen on the west side of the property.

Car traffic had eroded the dirt — too little dirt to actually seal the ash, state regulators speculated — and potentially exposed the public and the environment to toxic materials, such as arsenic, lead, radium and cadmium. More than 10,000 cubic yards of ash were used for the project, although only a small portion was exposed.

Last week the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) unveiled a new interactive mapping tool that shows the locations of more than a dozen classifications of disposal sites, including old dumps, underground storage tanks and coal combustion byproduct landfills. The icons then link to documents about a particular site. Viewers can also enter the data, such as the address, into the EPA’s Environmental Justice Screening tool to determine if the sites are near low-income areas or communities of color. For example, the residents within a mile and a half of the Family Dollar store in Weldon are nearly three-quarters Black.

The release of the mapping tool, particularly for coal combustion byproduct landfills, is important now because the Trump administration has weakened federal coal ash disposal rules, including those governing structural fill and beneficial reuse. States now have the latitude to set their own rules, as long as they are not less stringent than the EPA.

“A state permitting program is not acceptable if it’s simply a stand-in for a federal CCR rule,” said Hope Taylor, executive director of Clean Water for North Carolina. “It must be stronger, and have a wider range of protections. It must have a strong focus on protecting vulnerable communities, not on saving money for industry. Duke Energy must be required to remove coal ash from every unlined basin, so that the ash will be quickly and permanently isolated from both surface and ground water. The ‘Unifying Principles’ for the Alliance of Carolinians Together Against Coal Ash call for no dumping of any coal ash in other communities and no capping in place.”

DEQ is hosting four public hearings over the next month to take comment on its proposed rules. Those comments can now be informed by a history, albeit an incomplete one, of many coal ash reuse sites in the state.


Duke Energy is a main generator of coal ash in North Carolina, but there are nearly a half-dozen more, including Cogentrix, Roanoke Valley Energy, DuPont and Weyerhauser. These companies often get rid of their coal ash byproducts, also known as residuals, by shipping it to contractors that then mix it with concrete or other materials to build roads, tarmacs and parking lots. As long as the ash and its toxic compounds remain sealed in these materials, they are relatively safe, especially compared to leaving the material in open pits or even lined landfills.

But when engineers or property owners get sloppy, the benefits of encasing the coal ash in concrete are erased.

At the JS Turner Lumber Yard, which is down the street from the Family Dollar in Weldon, coal ash had been misapplied for more than 10 years. (In 1999, Hurricane Floyd interrupted the project, which was to use coal ash to raise the lumber drying yard; construction resumed afterward.)

In 2001, state inspectors saw that some of the 250,000 cubic yards of coal ash had been dumped outside of approved areas, including within two feet of the seasonal high water table. If the ash had become mixed with groundwater, the toxic material could have then traveled to rivers and streams, or depending on conditions, even drinking water wells.

In late 2007, household trash, furniture, mattresses, metal, plastic, wood had been dumped atop a coal ash site near the Turner sawmill, according to a DEQ warning letter.

Inspection reports filed nearly five years later show that “there does not appear to have been any work done to bring the site into compliance. Weeds and native grasses are growing up on the exposed coal ash. Coal ash had also washed down to the railroad tracks and inspectors also saw material in the road.” The status of the site: Unresolved. “Mr. Turner states he does not have money to make the corrections.”

In 1997, a neighbor of a coal ash structural fill site near Battleboro in Nash County called state inspectors to complain fly ash was being blown onto her house. The woman, Deborah Amato, told investigators that she suffered from “swollen lymph nodes, gastro intestinal problems, and fatigue” and that she believes the “exposure to the blown fly ash intensifies her health problems.”

Environmental inspectors went to the Reuse Techonology /RT Soil Sciences site and found what appeared to be coal ash dust inside her home. The fly ash had been deposited less than 25 feet — a little longer than two basketball goals lying on their sides — from her property. The ash was also closer than 50 feet to Swift Creek, a major tributary of the Tar River. Cogentrix was the source of the ash.

More recently, in 2015, DEQ cited Duke Energy and engineering firm Charah for violations related to erosion at a deposit site at the Asheville Regional Airport. Rain had washed away a dirt layer, exposing the ash. The material was being used to expand airport facilities, including taxiways and road bedding.

State law requires owners of land where more than 1,000 cubic yards of coal ash has been disposed to file documents with the respective county’s register of deeds. The records are supposed to show a “plat map” or legal description of where the ash was used or buried. Family Dollar’s owners — at that time, Eastern Pride out of Wilson — didn’t file those records. Nor did Eastern Pride notify state regulators that it had completed the project, which then triggers an inspection.

But there is no notification requirement if the amount of ash is less than 1,000 cubic yards. Nor do state records document all of the old “legacy” sites — coal ash dumps from the 1950s, for example — when such activity was virtually unregulated. At a recent hearing in Garysburg about a proposed coal ash landfill to be operated by VistaGreen, one man brought an Mt. Olive pickle jar that  contained coal ash, he told Northampton County commissioners. (He had inscribed a skull and crossbones on the lid.) He had collected the gray material, he said, from an area near a road.

CountyName/PhaseGeneratorProperty ownerLocationAcreageTonsCubic yardsProposed use
BRUNSWICKIrving Farm RdDupont, Cape FearGeorge G. Irving, SrNorth of NC 1410 near Winnabow10,000Land-based application to elevate land for farm access
Willetts’ Lewis Swamp PropertyDupontHugh Derek WillettsNorth of NC 1410 pit located on Lewis Swamp30,000Structural Fill
Lanier Property ProjectDupontWilliam D. Lanier30,000Structural Fill
Roans Branch Hunting PreserveDuPont DAK Americas PlantWarren and David KnoxNear 600 block of Green Lewis Rd (east side), Bolivia8.422,00028,000Structural Fill
Southport GymnasiumCogentrixCity of Brunswick211 N Atlantic Ave, Southport560Subgrade for the restoration of flooring in the City of Southport Gymnasium
Brunswick County Airport Phase ICogentrixBrunswick County Airport CommissionJust west of State Highway 13330,000Structural fill for additional parking and hangar space
Phase II48,000Structural fill for portion of sub-base for a parallel taxiway to existing one
Asheville Area Regional Airport Area IDuke Energy Asheville18730,000Structural fill projects for airport expansion. Area I
Area II CANCELLED1.26 million (proposed)0canceled
Area III341.3 millionfor additional hangars and commercial development.
Area IV532.3 million
Fieldcrest Cannon Plant #1Fieldcrest CannonFieldcrest Cannon
1 Lake Drive, Kannapolis10.4 - 18.9Expand existing landfill to include tank area and existing parking area
CATAWBAMarshall Steam Station Industrial Landfill 1Duke EnergyDuke Energy8320 East NC Highway 150, Terrell21705,000Structural fill to bring industrial landfill up to grade. Fill is on closed pond. Landfill is on this fill.
MSS solar power projectDuke EnergyDuke Energy834,698,500Property development for a solar photovoltaic system (never built - presently being used as lay down yard for landfill)
MSS access roadDuke EnergyDuke Energy127,982Structural fill to construct a service road at plant
Jeten PropertyDuke EnergyE&N Tarantino7836 NC Hwy 150E, Terrell7.9110200076,500Intended for office, warehouse, offices, shops and parking lot
CHATHAMBrickhaven No. 2Duke EnergyCharah1473 Moncure-Flatwood Rd, Moncure1966961Mine reclamation to original grade, final cover will have 6-ft soil on top of synthetic cap to allow for underground utilities for construction.
COLUMBUSSmall Aircraft Landing StripCogentrixJames S. GriceLocated on the west side of SR 1836 and SR 18389500Structural fill for a landing strip for small aircraft
CRAVENCherry Point Marine Corps Air StationUS GovtNear Havelock
Marine Corps Impact berm for live firing range16000Firing range
Marine Corps wastewater treatment plant5000Replace 2 trickling sand filters at the plant
CUMBERLANDNorthSide MineMiscellaneousRobert J. WaldropUS 401 near Linden and the Harnett/Cumberland Co. line15.5266618Previously mined area, fill used to raise ground elevation back to pre-excavation elevations
Boogle Bay Phase ICogentrix9340 Chickapee3Structural fill to expand parking area
Boogle Bay Phase IILinden Burlington IndustriesHwy 401 at the Boggle Bay Racetrack, Linden2.6Create a gently sloped surface area adjacent to lot
Crowell ConstructorsPhillip Morris5600 Murchison Rd, Fayetteville318000Structural fill
Crowell ConstructorsJP Stephens5600 Murchison Rd, FayettevilleStructural fill
Crowell ConstructorsBurlington Industries5600 Murchison Rd, Fayetteville50,000 cubic yardsStructural fill
DUPLINKilpatrick Farms Phase ICogentrixJohn Kilpatrick3 miles south of Kenansville38000All phases structural fill used as a building pad to construct livestock pens
Phase IICogentrixJohn Kilpatrick6 miles east of Highway 50, Kenansville30000
Phase IIICogentrixJohn Kilpatrick2 miles south of Kenansville off Highway 119700
DURHAMDuke University West Campus (Levine Science Research Center)Duke University308 Research Dr, Durham4,000-5,0003750
EDGECOMBEFountain Industrial Park Lot 1CogentrixEdgecombe County Development Corp.Fountain Park Drive; off US 30113200 tons Structural fill for a lot, road bed base, pipe bedding, landscaping filler
Lots 9, 10, 11CogentrixEdgecombe County Development Corp.Northeast corner of Fountain Park Dr & College Rd, Battleboro
FORSYTHLowery StreetCity of Winston-Salem2000 Lowery St40000Storage space for city projects
Tobaccoville ProjectRJ ReynoldsRJ ReynoldsAdjacent to RJ Reynolds Tobacco company's Tobaccoville Power Plant176000Industrial development
GASTONAllen Steam Station Retired Ash BasinDuke Energy (Allen)Duke Energy235 Plant Allen Rd, Belmont74000Test pad to ensure structural stability of ash as subgrade for proposed landfill
Monitoring & ReportingJTM Industries, Inc., 6135 Brookshire Freeway Charlotte12406JTM Industries, Inc.
Monitoring & ReportingTransmission Line NC. 273, Belmont172722Allen Ash Reuse
Monitoring & ReportingMarvin Phillips' Property NC 16, Triangle51740Riverbend Ash Reuse
Monitoring & Reporting6152 Brookshire Freeway Charlotte45600Riverbend Ash Reuse
Monitoring & ReportingPleasant Grove United Methodist Church 1915 Oakdale Rd. Charlotte13230Riverbend Ash Reuse
Retired Ash Basin 235 Plant Allen Rd, Belmont21410000Subgrade for cells
Monitoring & Reporting91400 South Point Rd Belmont190289Allen Ash Reuse
Monitoring & Reporting156 Lake Mist Drive, Belmont325289Allen Ash Reuse
Monitoring & ReportingNew Covenant United Methodist Church Site NC 16 North, Lucia30860Riverbend Ash Reuse
Ash ReuseRiverbend Steam Station417000Duke Energy Ash Reuse
Monitoring & ReportingNew Covenant United Methodist Church Site NC 16 North, Lucia300000Riverbend Ash Reuse
HALIFAXFamily Dollar Store and adjoining propertyRoanoke Valley Energyintersection of US 158 and 301, Weldon10000Structural fill
Weldon Acceptance FacilityRoanoke Valley EnergyTown of WeldonNorth side of Aurelian Springs Rd, approximately .5 miles west of its intersection with County Club Rd5.35127739Structural fill, access road, parking lot, garage, office building, replace previously excavated material
Wayne Long Mini StorageRoanoke Valley Energy FacilityWayne LongNC Hwy 125, Halifax11.52127776Mini storage facility
JS Turner SawmillRoanoke Valley EnergyWommack & Son, CorpSouth end of Turner St., west of the railroad, across from W 10th/Elm St intersection, Weldon25905238Raise elevation of lumber drying yard
Old Coca Cola PlantCogentrixBB PierceUS 158 and 301, Weldon2.49154000Materials testing facility
Weldon Fire StationRoanoke Valley EnergyTown of WeldonUS 158 West, Weldon6689Structural fill new fire station
BB Pierce/ Basnight Building SupplyRoanoke Valley Energy (Weldon)DOT & BB PierceUS 301 & River Rd243848
I-95/NC 125CogentrixDOTInterstate 95 at NC 125 approximately 2 miles south of Roanoke Rapids7000Structural fill, embankment
O.N. Vaughan PropertyRoanoke Valley Energy FacilityOtis N. Vaughan4752 US 301, Weldon664000Structural fill, pasture
HENDERSONCranston Print WorksOff US 25 (Dixie Highway), Fletcher3.34Area 1, retired holding basin, Area 2, adjacent holding cells, both filled to original ground surface
IREDELLLake Norman Airport Tract 1Duke EnergyYeager Rd, off State Rd 14946500Structural fill for airport expansion: aircraft hangars and taxi ways
Lake Norman Airport Tract 2Duke Energy14 Alpha, Inc.8000Structural fill for airport expansion on all tracts and lots
Lake Norman Airport Tract 3Duke Energy10000
Lake Norman Airport Lot 1Duke Energy
Lake Norman Airport Lot 2DS Associates8000
Carolina Eagles Aviation's Lake Norman Airport Property Lot 3Duke EnergyCarolina Eagles10000
Port Village Business ParkDuke EnergyNC150 near I-77 intersection (Exit 36)500000Shopping mall with Lowes, restaurants and parking
Race Park, USADuke EnergyJB Mallory III, Pres. Race Park;NC150 E on Doolie Rd, Mooresville45000Entertainment facility
Duckworth Food MarketsDuke EnergyOth Holdthings, LLCNorthwest quadrant NC 150 and Bluefield Rd, Mooresville 60000Gasoline/convenience mart
EJ Bill Simpson PropertyDuke EnergyBill SimpsonBetween Bluefield Rd and NC 150 near I-77 intersection 120000Structural fill to develop the property for marketing
Brawley School RdDuke EnergyMarlo CorporationUS21 and Brawley School Rd60,000 cubic yards- 100,000100000Structural fill to develop the property for marketing
BK Barringer, Jr, Industrial Park Lot 14Duke Energy Mazzeppa Rd off NC 1509500All Barringer sites use structural fill to develop property for marketing
BK Barringer, Jr, Industrial Park Lot 13Duke Energy9500
BK Barringer, Jr, Industrial Park Lot 7, 8Duke Energy9500
BK Barringer, Jr, Industrial Park Lot 1-4Duke Energy9500
BK Barringer, Jr, Industrial Park Lot 5-6Duke Energy9500
Terry K. Smith; NC 150 ProjectDuke EnergyNC 150 55000Structural fill to develop the property for marketing
LEE Colon Mine SiteDuke EnergyCharah352 Brickyard Rd, Sanford7.1 millionMine reclamation
MECKLENBURGI-485DOTI-485 (Charlotte Outer Loop) from NC27 (Mt Holly Rd) to East of SR2042 (Oakdale Rd)329193Interstate road
Huntersville Ford DealershipDuke EnergyWest side of US 21 and east of I-77, 25 miles south of Huntersville exit 23 on I-7775137Fill
NASHImperial TobaccoImperial TobaccoImperial Center Partners, LPArts Center and Children's Museum (McDonald Street Building)225Back fill, foundation for the planetarium, at the Art's Center and Children's Museum, to be built inside McDonald Street building
Turn Key Contractors ProjectCogentrixWright Dev. Co.2700 block of N. Wesleyan Blvd, Rocky Mount/Business Park Drive41000Structural fill, industrial and business park development
Swift Creek/US 301CogentrixUS 301134000100500
Randy Vann PropertyCogentrixRandy VannMaple Creek Plaza, US 301
Home Gallery SiteCogentrixR&M Investments505 S Wesleyan, Rocky Mount3.8UndevelopedStructural fill, development of tract
Carolina Eagle Distributing, Inc.CogentrixUS 301 at College Park Rd1500011250Structural fill, building pad roadway, parking lot subsurface
EB Grain Co. ExpansionCogentrixEB Grain CoUS 301 - close to Swift Creek 2500018750to expand coal ash structural fill project at the EB Grain Facility on HWY 301 north of Rocky Mount.- to construct a building and a pad
EB Grain Co., Inc.CogentrixEB Grain Co.US 301 north of Rocky MountRoad bed material
Englewood Baptist ChurchCogentrixEnglewood Baptist Church1 mile south of Winstead and Sunset Ave. 8000Structural fill, building pads
Brandywine Industrial ParkCogentrixGB & IS HoldernessBetween US 301 and State Rd 15604000072000
NORTHAMPTONArthur's CreekRoanoke Valley Energy (Weldon)Henry LongSouth side of NC 46, 1 mile east of I-95 and west of Garysburg408612Use has changed, considering using site for pasture, shops
PERSONAll phasesDuke Energy (Roxboro)Duke Energy1700 Dunnaway Rd, Semora20131319Storage pad
Roxboro Power Plant25000
28725000Base grade for landfill
ROBESONAntone ProjectCogentrixBob Antone4828 Fayetteville Rd Lumberton5000Structural fill for Heritage Realty
Alamac RdCogentrixAlmac Rd12.84500033750
ROWANJake Alexander Blvd. ExtenFieldcrest-Cannon (Spencer)DOTEast of I-85 to SR 1004, Stokes Ferry Rd, Salisbury30000Highway construction
Fieldcrest Cannon Ash HandlingFieldcrest CannonFieldcrest CannonPump Station Rd and Glenn Ave360000
STOKESBelews CreekDuke EnergyDuke EnergySR 1908 55918274Equipment/material staging area & overflow parking lot
Belews Creek Sand Filter System475Fill abandoned sand filter system
WASHINGTONCrystal Ford Mercury WeyerhaeuserCrystal FordUS 64, Plymouth29700Elevate property for car dealership