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Ask Matt ... what those silver convoys are hauling

Q. I have noticed many tractor trailer trucks traveling through Henderson County on I-26. They all look the same, silver with white cabs marked “WM.” I often see them in convoys of a dozen or more. Where are they going and what are they hauling?

It’s coal ash – what’s left after burning coal at Duke Energy’s Skyland power plant in South Asheville. According to Craig DeBrew, Duke’s community relations manager, most of the ash is being trucked to a lined landfill in Homer, Ga. That landfill has been fully permitted to accept the coal ash but the hauling distance is 132 miles. DeBrew said that the ash is not a hazardous waste nor is it “toxic” but it does contain very low levels of trace elements — levels similar to what you find in soil and municipal solid waste.

Duke has already moved several million tons of ash from the Skyland site to be used as fill material at the Asheville Regional Airport. With that runway project complete, the next best repository was the Georgia landfill. The State has given Duke until 2022 to remove the remaining ash piles, some 3.8 million tons. Removal will also make room for Duke’s new natural gas generators.
The trucks you see on the Interstate are owned by Waste Management, which has a contract with Duke. A Waste Management spokesperson told me their trucks carry up to 21 tons. Based on that, I roughly calculated that to move all of the coal ash by 2022 would take 91 trips per day hauling five days a week. Duke Energy has its own permitted landfill at its Cliffside power plant location in Mooresboro, near Shelby. The hauling distance is only half of that to the Georgia site. Duke has a contract with Charah, a Kentucky-based company to help move ash to the Cliffside site. Using both landfills will help the power company meet its goals.
DeBrew pointed out that each truck is washed before leaving the site. They also have a tightly fitted tarp that covers the ash and trucks are monitored for speed. Waste Management is similarly focused on safety. It has partnered with Duke Energy to remove coal ash piles from two other power plant sites, one in Anderson County, S.C., and another in Gaston County. Yes, they are hauling a lot of ash.

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