Duke Energy will dig up 4.2 million tons of coal ash located in two different locations on the campus of the company’s Robinson Nuclear Plant just outside Hartsville, SC, and plans to store the ash in a new, on-site landfill.
The company said it will build a Class 3 landfill in which to carry out dry, lined storage of the coal ash, known to contain toxins such as arsenic. Duke submitted a letter to the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) Thursday confirming the plan. The ash is currently in an inactive, unlined basin, where the ash reaches down 18 feet into the groundwater, as well as in a smaller, inactive fill site, according to a published report.
The Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) obtained documents last year from the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) that showed groundwater testing in and near the ash basin detected levels of arsenic up to 100 times the state standard for drinking water.
DHEC cited Duke last year for the illegal levels of arsenic found in groundwater near Lake Robinson. Documents obtained from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission shed light on instances in which former site owner Carolina Power and Light dumped low-level nuclear waste in the coal ash basin several times. Duke Energy took ownership of the site after a corporate merger with Progress Energy in 2012, and said “less than detectable” levels of the nuclear waste, Cobalt-60, are at the site.
Duke spokesperson Erin Culbert also said there are no detections of unsafe levels of arsenic or other toxic materials in Lake Robinson.
The lake ended up built in 1959 to provide cooling for both the 724-megawatt Robinson Nuclear Plant and the 177-megawatt coal plant. The coal plant shut down in 2012. Beyond cooling for the nuclear plant, Lake Robinson also sees use for recreation purposes such as fishing and boating.