The state appellate court will determine the difference between a mine and a landfill, now that the NC Department of Environmental Quality has appealed a previous decision restricting where coal ash can be buried.
NC DEQ filed a notice of appeal last Friday, seeking a second opinion to Chatham County Superior Court Judge Carl Fox’s ruling in late March that the department should revoke two of the four mine reclamation permits it had issued to Charah/Green Meadow, Inc. Those permits allow the Kentucky-based company to dispose of coal ash in newly excavated areas, as well as existing abandoned clay and slate mines. Although both types of disposal areas are lined, Fox’s order determined that the new areas are landfills, and subject to more stringent regulations than structural fill mines.
DEQ spokesman Jamie Kritzer said the department is appealing Fox’s ruling because it believes the permits were issued properly. Charah is also appealing the order, while asking to continue to dispose of the ash in new areas until the issue is resolved.
The suit was brought by the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, EnvironmentaLee and Chatham Citizens Against the Coal Ash Dump.
The Brickhaven mine near Moncure has received 3.5 million tons of coal ash, about half of it from Duke Energy’s Riverbend plant near Mt. Holly. In March, Charah alerted DEQ that Duke had detected PCBs in Riverbend ash at concentrations of 1 part per million. While federal law allows ash with contamination at these levels solid waste landfills, Chatah told DEQ it would not accept any material with PCBs that exceeded 1 part per million.
Brickhaven is the same mine where a controversial leachate aerosolization experiment will start later this summer. DEQ issued Charah a permit to conduct a 90-day field trial using this technology, which lacks any scientific evidence for safety. DEQ will require Charah to monitor for metals and other contaminants in the air and report them to the department.
House Bill 576 would allow landfill operators to use leachate aerosolization, but without the oversight of a state permit. The legislation would also require DEQ to allow companies to use this method. If the bill becomes law, legislators would overstep their roles and dictate to DEQ’s scientists a preferred technology.