Duke Energy invites community to hear more about plant upgrades, ash removal

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    By David Meade/Stan Welch

    Duke Energy will hold a community update session to provide more information about projects and upgrades currently underway and planned for the new W. S. Lee Natural Gas Combined Cycle Facility.

    The session is open to the public and will be held Tuesday, March 10 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Williamston Town Hall Auditorium. There will be tour exhibit tables, snacks and information provided about the new facility.

    Duke Energy is advising the community that there will be increased activity and traffic at the site in coming weeks as mobilization begins on upgrades at the plant and other projects.

    power_coal_leeOn November 6, 2014, the Lee Steam Plant, which had burned coal to produce electricity for more than six decades, was officially retired as the last coal fed steam plant in South Carolina.

    However, the Lee Steam Plant, which was opened in 1951, remains a vital element of Duke Energy’s strategy to continue providing clean energy to an ever increasing market.

    While power generating units one and two will be shut down for good, unit three will be converted to a state of the art gas fired steam turbine.

    But even as that $500 million dollar project begins, an equally important $100 million dollar ash removal program will be underway.

    Ryan Mosier, spokesman for Duke Energy in the Upstate area, recently explained to The Journal that the two simultaneous projects are separate aspects of the overall upgrade.

    “There is a significant amount of coal ash currently stored at the Lee Steam plant site,” said Mosier. “We have submitted a plan to DHEC for the first phase of the removal of that ash, and we continue to do the planning and engineering for the additional removal that will eventually take place.”

    An estimated 3.2 million tons of coal ash is on the site. Pollution incidents involving coal ash at other Duke facilities have led to pressure from environmental groups to clean up such sites. Duke has acknowledged their responsibility and their recognition that such efforts are also good business.

    Currently at the site, there are two still active coal ash basins; one inactive basin, which was built during the 1950s; an ash structural fill; and an ash fill site. Duke estimates that forty four per cent of the 3.2 million tons of ash is contained in the inactive basin, and the ash fill site. Those are the first areas slated for cleanup. That would be approximately 1.4 million tons.

    Duke has contracted with Waste Management, Inc. to haul the ash to a fully lined and permitted landfill it operates in Homer, GA. Mosier said that discussion between various stakeholders, such as SCDOT, Anderson County, and other groups continue, in order to determine and designate truck routes.

    The amount of truck traffic will be more than significant. County officials familiar with the discussions suggest that three distinct routes will be needed to distribute the truck traffic and its impact on area roads.

    Duke Energy continues to study and prepare a plan for disposal of the remaining 1.8 million tons of ash, and will submit those plans to DHEC at the appropriate time, said Mosier. “We will determine the most effective and efficient means of disposal, including the possible construction of a lined landfill at the site, thereby removing the issue of transport to Georgia in the future.”

    Mosier said that the plan for the immediate disposal project has been submitted and DHEC is reviewing it. “While I certainly wouldn’t speak for DHEC, this project has been fairly high on their list of projects, so I would anticipate a fairly quick decision.” Once the project is approved and started, the removal is expected to take approximately three years.

    The construction project is expected to create five hundred construction jobs while it is underway.

    Anyone with questions or concerns or who would like to know more about upgrades and projects related to the Lee Steam Plant facility is invited to the meeting Tuesday.