State seeks public feedback on Belews Creek Steam Station draft consent order and permit

 DEQ is seeking public feedback on a proposed draft special order by consent for Duke Energy’s Belews Creek Steam Station, as well as a draft wastewater permit modification for the Stokes County facility. The public comment period will run through Jan. 25, 2019.
The draft order, draft modified permit and related documents are available online at:

Talking points from Southern Environmental Law Center:

  • The draft Belews Creek NPDES Permit fails to adequately protect the surrounding lake and rivers.

    • Despite the history of pollution at this plant, the permit’s limits on toxic water pollution are in many cases weaker than in previous drafts.

    • The permit does not require a “physical/chemical treatment system” for ash pond dewatering, unlike the systems already being used at Duke’s Riverbend and Sutton plants.

    • The permit delays compliance with stricter federal pollution limits, which should be imposed later this year but the draft permit delays until late 2020.

    • The permit fails to minimize the harm to fish and aquatic life in Belews Lake as a result of its outdated water intake structure and its discharge of superheated wastewater.

    • The permit should be improved to fully limit pollution from the Belews Creek facility, as required by the Clean Water Act. 

  • The SOC acknowledges that Duke’s discharge into Little Belews Creek violates the Clean Water Act, but would allow the discharge to continue until Duke builds a new pipeline to discharge directly into the Dan River. 

    • The proposed SOC admits that the plant has been polluting Little Belews Creek for over three decades.  

    • Despite this fact, the SOC concludes that neither DEQ nor Duke has done anything wrong.

    • DEQ should rectify over 30 years of unlawful pollution of Little Belews Creek by stopping it, not allowing it to continue.

Comments for the CCR Rules

This week NC Department of Environmental Quality accepted comments on the updating of the state’s CCR Rules. Many members of our ACT group shared their own stories with the state agency. Following are the comments that I submitted:

To Whom It May Concern:

I am writing in regards to preventing potential changes of the CCR Rules. 

I am an advocate for coal ash, specifically related to my home community of Belews Creek. However I stand united with all fourteen locations in North Carolina who house coal ash, including the site of coal ash landfills in Lee and Chatham Counties. Belews Creek is the home of 20 million tons of coal ash. Over eight million tons are in a capped-in-place mountain that has already been proven to have failed and created a large arsenic plume off of Old Plantation Road. We know that capping-in-place does not work. It should not be considered by DEQ as a solution that serves anyone other than Duke Energy. 

After Florence, we all see the future for coal ash in landfills in our state. Three different types of landfills failed. At Sutton, we witnessed the failure of a new lined landfill. At Lee, we saw the failure of a classic, unlined landfill awaiting closure. And at Brickhaven, we saw the failure of a mine reclamation landfill. None of these solutions are viable as we face climate change and can expect more frequent storms with greater strength. Yet we know that in South Carolina, the state was able to clean up all of the sites under budget and under timeframes. The groundwater immediately improved. 

Therefore, I am asking for the following:

• Do not allow Duke to Cap-In-Place
• Keep the coal ash on Duke-owned property, and not dumped on other communities
• Support storing ash in a dry, lined system that can be reused in encapsulated products to rebuild our failing infrastructure
• Do not interfere with citizens’ rights to hold Duke legally accountable for its coal ash pollution.

Through the work of NC A&T State University, we have technology available to that will encapsulate the coal ash in a solid form so that we no longer have to worry about getting the ash into our bodies through the air and water. We need to use these storms as reason to push forward on this strategy. By reconsidering the coal ash as a valuable raw material instead of a waste that DEQ and Duke continues to ignore, we can use the encapsulated coal ash for rebuilding our much needed infrastructure.

The UN’s report on Climate Change presents a dire urgency to actually address this issues and move beyond the political pressure of Duke and focusing on their bottom line. All of our lives are at stake. North Carolina has the opportunity to holistically solve this problem that plagues not only our state, but the entire country. 

By using a crop like hemp, we can plant in impacted areas that will draw the heavy metals out of the ground. That plant can then be used to create the polymer binding agent for encapsulation. Therefore the remains of the plants containing the heavy metals will be encapsulated in with the loose ash. It provides a new crop for local farmers and additional jobs for coal ash impacted communities. While the ash needs to be dried, it does not need to be reburned with a lower discharge than the STAR system by SEFA. This technology is much more environmentally sound than solutions currently being put forth. 

Instead of denying claims of coal ash failure at every storm, let’s imagine a near future where these sites are cleaned up and technology surpassed expectations. In the end, Duke will continue to profit off of this solution as well. But it requires having DEQ demand that they choose a different way. The current landfill options fail and will continue to fail time and time again. Why would you professionally subject yourselves to ongoing pressure? Now is the time to clean it up and ensure a better tomorrow by upholding our CCR Rules to the highest of standards that can serve as a model throughout the country. 

Thank you.


Caroline Armijo

Biography of John L. Hairston


Research from Henry Wiencek & Curated by Jennifer Martin

We will honor John L. Hairston during the Celebrating Courage Weekend August 11th & 12th. 

John L. was the seventh generation from the original Hairston settlers in the Walnut Cove/Pine Hall area. He went to great lengths to receive an education, even repeating the same grade a few times in the local school because it was the highest grade there and even as a young man Mr. Hairston had a passion for education.  

His education was interrupted for 12 years while he worked in the Brickyard to help take care of his family and John L. Hairston would go on to honorably serve his country in the United States Army in the 372nd Infantry Regiment of the United States Army for forty-four months.

During his service in World War II, Mr. Hairston married his childhood sweetheart, Ms. Ruth Anderson in 1942.  Mrs. Ruth Anderson herself was the Valedictorian of her high school class and they both would go on to earn college degrees:  Mr. Hairston from North Carolina A & T State University in Greensboro, North Carolina [NCAT] and Mrs. Ruth Hairston from Winston-Salem State University.

Mr. Hairston earned an engineering degree from NCAT with a minor in Math Education in 1951.   Although he was offered a job in New Jersey as an engineer where he would make much more money than he could in the segregated South the death of his grandmother kept Mr. Hairston in Pine Hall helping his family. 

This well-educated man ended up bagging groceries at the A & P in Greensboro. An offer came to him to teach math at the all-black London School in Walnut Cove. John L. took the job and taught for a while before being offered the engineering position in N.J. once more.

It would have paid twice as much money as he was making as a teacher but John L. Hairston remained dedicated to the development of educational opportunities for the children of African – American families including his three children; Ted, Tony, and Mona Lisa. Before long, John L. was principal of London School. Their three children would all go on to be college graduates and serve their communities in the spirit of their father. 

Although the nation had already passed desegregation laws, Stokes County schools were still segregated while Mr. Hairston was the principal of London High School. History was made when students from London School marched in protest down Main Street of Walnut Cove in 1968 when there was a push to close the London School. The march ended up fully integrating Walnut Cove and London High School became an elementary school; it became a grammar school, serving fifth through eighth graders of all races. Stokes County Schools became integrated.

John L. Hairston remained principal and served the State of North Carolina over the course of a forty-five-year career in education. While leading the way in education Mr. Hairston remained an active member of Pine Hall Baptist Church where he served as the head of the Deacon Board for thirty-five years, Building Fund Treasurer, Sunday School teacher, and the Sunday School Superintendent. As with their marriage and careers in education, his wife was by his side as the church pianist for four decades. John L. Hairston’s belief in service extended to his community where he was on the Board of Directors of the Yadkin Valley Economic Development District.  Among Mr. Hairston’s many charitable efforts was his fifteen years of service with the Stokes-Rockingham V.F.D. that he helped organize. Mr. Hairston was a member of the first County Planning Board and served on the Board of Directors of the East Stokes Outreach Ministry. Mr. Hairston received many awards, citations, and honors over his life; he remained most proud of The National Alumni Association of the North Carolina Agricultural and Technical University for outstanding contributions to the desegregation of Stokes County Schools.