Duke Energy to share plans for handling coal ash

Coal ash ponds: Location of five ash ponds at the Wabash River Generating Station, which was closed last year after 63 years of producing electrical power.

Duke Energy has a plan to deal with 9.1 million tons of coal ash at its former Wabash River Generating Station and will hold an open house so the public can learn the plan’s details.

The open house is slated for 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. May 8 at the Valley Grill, 2170 N. Third St., Terre Haute.

Previously, federal regulations regarding the disposal of coal combustion residuals were self-implemented under a 2015 U.S. EPA regulation.

That changed in 2016, when Congress passed the Water and Waste Act of 2016, authorizing the EPA or a state to implement a permit program for coal ash disposal.

When coal is burned, it creates multiple coal combustion products, including fly ash, a fine-grained powdery material, and bottom ash, which is a coarser, granular material collected from the bottom of coal-fired boilers.

The ash was placed into “ash ponds” on site at the Wabash Station facility, located north of Terre Haute.

The Wabash Station has five ash ponds, with the first — the North Ash Pond — built in 1953.

Ash Pond A was built in 1968. The next two — Ash Pond B and Secondary Ash Pond — were each built in 1984, according to Duke Energy documents submitted to the Indiana Department of Environmental Management.

The South Ash Pond is the most recent basin, built in 2005.

The power company plans to remove an estimated 3.55 million tons of coal ash from Pond A and the Secondary basin, consolidating all of the coal ash into the remaining three basins, said Duke Energy spokeswoman Angeline Protogere.

“We are reducing the overall footprint of ash storage on-site and consolidating the excavated ash in the remaining basins in order to create the proper grading for storm water runoff,” Protogere said.

“In addition to engineered grading, basins that are capped in place will be covered with a geosynthetic liner and include drainage features to channel away water,” in accordance with state and federal requirements, Protogere said.

There is also a required 30-year, post-closure monitoring period, Protogere said, and Duke Energy will sample groundwater monitoring wells at least twice a year, submitting that information to IDEM.

Capping the basins eliminates a need for a new storage location, and reduces costs and air emissions, as it would take more than 500,000 truck trips to remove all of the ash on site, Protogere said.

IDEM must approve the plan, with a decision expected “late this year, but it depends on IDEM’s schedule,” Protogere said.

The Wabash Station was closed last year, after 63 years of operation. The coal-fired power plant was closed as part of a 2013 settlement with the Sierra Club, Citizens Action Coalition, Save the Valley and Valley Watch over issues with air permits at Duke’s Edwardsport power plant. Duke Energy also planned to close the plant due to a federal mercury rule.

Reporter Howard Greninger can be reached 812-231-4204 or howard.greninger@tribstar.com. Follow on Twitter@TribStarHoward.

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