Emergency Action Planning



Dam Owner Responsibilities

Dam Owner Responsibilities

Coal Ash Dams Now Regulated

North Carolina has a considerable number of coal ash/tailings dams at power plants. The massive destruction from the release of 5.4 million cubic yards of arsenic- and mercury-laced muck and watery discharge from the failure of the Tennessee Valley Authority coal ash (tailings) “retaining pond” dam on December 22, 2008 focused the attention of state government on the issue. As a result, on July 31, 2009 legislation was enacted bringing coal ash dams in North Carolina under the state’s Dam Safety Act and subject to hazard classification and inspection by state Dam Safety Program engineers. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has identified 44 HHP coal ash dams around the nation, 12 of which are in North Carolina. Many other coal ash dams in the state are not classified by EPA as HHP.

Coal Ash Dam Law

External link NC Senate Bill 1004

Dam Safety Program engineers originally believed there were 14 coal ash pond dams in the state, but Progress Energy reported 27 dams and Duke Power reported 23 dams affected by the amendment to the Dam Safety Act.

In prior years, these dams were not under state authority. Engineers in the state’s Dam Safety Program began inspecting and classifying the HHP coal ash dams according to DENR regulatory standards, a major initiative that continues in 2010. The legislature did not provide additional personnel or funding for these inspections. DENR regulatory standards may not match up precisely with EPA standards. The Charlotte Observer noted in a 2009 news article that the DENR database labeled as low-hazard Duke Energy's ash-basin dams at its Marshall plant in Catawba County and Buck plant in Rowan County. But the EPA listed those dams, and dams at four other Duke plants, as high hazard.

Power companies operating these dams have created EAPs for most of them, particularly those classified as HHP.

Dams regulated by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) or the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) still do not come under state authority, though those agencies have strict inspection standards and timetables and require Emergency Action Plans on their HHP dams.