CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- The rising Cape Fear River is overtopping the cooling lake at the L.V. Sutton Plant in Wilmington, N.C.
Aerial photographs taken this morning of the cooling lake showed some erosion on the interior slope of the berm, a surface that is protected by a layer of compacted soil and cement. The company is using drones to monitor the situation.
Two large 24-inch valves have been opened to release water from the lake. Given the historic level of flooding on the Cape Fear River, there is little to no chance that lake water will contribute to a measurable change in water levels in the area.
Duke Energy photos illustrate the situation at the site this morning. (See photos under "Photo Downloads" at https://news.duke-energy.com/media-kit.) In addition, initial test results announced Wednesday demonstrate that lake water quality is good, so a release should not affect river water quality.
Sutton Lake is an 1,100-acre man-made reservoir constructed in 1972 to supply cooling water to the Sutton power plant. The cooling lake does not store coal ash.
"We have deployed numerous resources to assess the situation and have positioned repair materials so we can rapidly respond once the river conditions are safe to do so," said George Hamrick, a senior vice president with Duke Energy. "We continue to work closely with local emergency management and other officials as the situation evolves."
Sutton's ash basins are currently not affected by this incident. The 625-megawatt natural gas combined cycle plant at Sutton also continues to operate safely, and the company will evaluate continued plant operations. Sutton's 575-megawatt coal plant was retired in 2013 and the units were demolished in 2017.
Additional updates on Sutton and H.F. Lee
Importantly, Duke Energy's coal ash basins continue to operate safely. Earlier in the week, the historic rainfall caused several areas of significant erosion at the Sutton coal ash landfill currently under construction.
As previously shared, flooding has caused the river to flow across three forested, inactive ash basins at the H.F. Lee site in Goldsboro. Those basins are normally dry, covered in forest and vegetation and do not impound water. Visual inspections with the environmental regulator today show that some cenospheres were released during the flooding; cenospheres are lightweight, hollow beads comprised primarily of alumina and silica that are a byproduct of coal combustion. It also appears that only a small amount of coal ash has been displaced, similar to the impact in the wake of Hurricane Matthew. Crews will continue to monitor the situation.
Conditions at other Duke Energy plants are improving as rivers and flooding recede.
Headquartered in Charlotte, N.C., Duke Energy (NYSE: DUK) is one of the largest energy holding companies in the U.S., with approximately 29,000 employees and a generating capacity of 49,500 megawatts.
The company's Electric Utilities and Infrastructure unit serves approximately 7.6 million retail electric customers in six states – North Carolina, South Carolina, Florida, Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky.
Its Gas Utilities and Infrastructure unit distributes natural gas to approximately 1.6 million customers in five states – North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Ohio and Kentucky. Its Commercial Renewables unit operates a growing renewable energy portfolio across the U.S.
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