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Duke Energy to recycle nearly 6 million tons of ash at HF Lee complex

Duke Energy Corp. plans to excavate and recycle nearly 6 million tons of coal ash at its retired H.F. Lee Energy Complex in Wayne County, N.C., the company announced Dec. 13.

"After evaluating a variety of locations, our experts have determined that H.F. Lee is an ideal site for a project of this nature based on a number of factors including, proximity to market demand, the volume of ash at the site, ash quality and the site's current closure deadline," Duke Energy said in a news release.

Duke Energy already agreed to excavate the four basins at the H.F. Lee site as part of a settlement agreement reached in 2015 with environmental groups represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center. The excavation of ash at H.F. Lee is to be completed by Aug. 1, 2028.

Duke Energy planned to beneficially reuse the ash as structural fill in a mine reclamation project in Lee County, N.C. "The Colon Mine project remains a contingency site if final closure plans for basins across the state require it," Duke Energy said.

The company said the majority of the 6 million tons of ash at H.F. Lee will be recycled for use in concrete products with any leftover material "relocated to a safe, permanent storage solution off-site." Duke Energy added that it does not intend to build an onsite landfill to store any unused material.

Duke Energy spokeswoman Erin Culbert said the decision to recycle the ash is also part of the company's efforts to comply with a new state law passed in July. The law promotes the beneficial reuse of coal ash by requiring Duke Energy to recycle 300,000 tons of ash annually at a minimum of three sites for use in construction products. These sites must be closed no later than Dec. 31, 2029.

Duke Energy Carolinas LLC announced plans in October to excavate and recycle coal ash from the basins at its retired Buck coal plant in Salisbury, N.C., as part of a settlement with environmental groups. The agreement requires Duke Energy Carolinas to remove the ash from the basins no later than Dec. 31, 2025. There are approximately 5.3 million tons of ash stored at Buck, according to Duke Energy.

H.F. Lee is owned and operated by Duke Energy subsidiary Duke Energy Progress LLC.