By Judy Hogan
Moncure, NC – I’m responding to Mary Phyllis’ Chatham Chatlist post of June 18. I’m sorry, Mary Phyllis, but I can’t celebrate the Chatham Commissioners deal with Duke Energy. There are two main problems. Duke’s actions in NC suggest that they are quite unconcerned about the harm to residents living near coal ash ponds (34 in NC), which are all leaking, and to those residents in Southeast Chatham and Lee County, where they plan to bring 20 million tons of coal ash down Chatham’s secondary roads, using very little protection against coal ash dust being blown off the trucks coming from Wilmington and Charlotte.
It’s clear that our Board of Commissioners (BOC), in good faith, was trying to protect us, but in our experience, Duke Energy is untrustworthy. They manipulate the facts and then say whatever they think will get them what they want. The Dan River spill could have been prevented with the repair of a pipe, yet they chose not to do so. When enforcement actions are taken against them, they fight back with high-powered lawyers. They show by their behavior that they care nothing for us.
Erik Erickson, a psychologist I admire, advises: “Know your counter player.” Many of us sat in BOC open meetings and listened to good questions the BOC asked and heard Duke’s unreliable, inadequate answers. Even in the recent violation that the BOC caught Charah/Green Meadows doing, they haven’t stopped work. The dump trucks are still filling the roads in our area: Corinth, Moncure-Flatwood, new #1, even Pea Ridge, and Moncure-Pittsboro. Residents of Moncure-Flatwood report very reckless, dangerous driving that puts those residents in danger of their lives. They have been forced off the road, and one resident’s home was almost hit by a speeding truck.
Three of the BOC attended the forum sponsored by the Democratic Women on June 7 and heard John Wagner’s report on the vulnerability of the liners Charah will use to take this coal ash, how there are multiple ways they can be torn, eaten by bacteria and how they will surely leak. The only question is how soon. Certainly, given the liners’ fragility when full of coal ash and the ash’s mountainous shape, no solar farm could be built on top of such landfills.
We appreciate their desire to protect us, but the only way we will be safe is not to have Duke’s coal ash at all. So should the BOC put air monitors near the site and along travel routes and pick up coal ash dust? We don’t believe that it will change anything if it’s reported to DENR and even if fines are levied. Duke has no history of paying fines levied or doing a thorough job of cleaning up coal ash in North Carolina communities who are already suffering from coal ash contamination. Coal ash is highly toxic. People are dying of it in other parts of NC. This is not what the sustainability movement in Chatham needs.
Duke cleverly put it into the agreement that our BOC couldn’t support us at Chatham Citizens Against Coal Ash Dump. So we end up as antagonists. We will go to court, but the BOC can’t join us. In a 3-2 vote, BOC signed away their right to sue or even to cheer us on. We will have to fight this alone for Chatham.
Judy Hogan is chairman of the Chatham Citizens Against Coal Ash Dump group