Hurricane Florence’s potential for destruction also includes increased risks for the environment and public health as torrential rains could overwhelm the pits where toxic waste from power plants is stored. Animal-manure lagoons are also at risk of flooding.
Duke Energy was ordered two years ago to clean up coal-ash ponds in North Carolina that posed risks to the environment and public health. The company won’t be done in time for the storm, leaving the sites vulnerable to spills that can unleash the waste. The state is also a major producer of poultry and hogs, and man-made lagoons that hold manure also could be at risk of overflowing into fields and nearby waterways.
Florence continues to grow in size and strength, now poised to become the strongest hurricane in almost 30 years to hit the Carolinas as more than 1 million people began fleeing the U.S. coastline.
Duke came under pressure to address coal-ash storage after about 39,000 tons spilled in 2014 from a pond near Eden, North Carolina. In 2016, the state gave the company until Aug. 1, 2019, to dig up and close some coal-ash pits and almost a decade more to deal with others. Duke has begun work at several high-risk sites.