CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WTVD) -- Duke Energy agreed to close its nine remaining coal ash basins in North Carolina.
In a statement from Duke Energy released Thursday, the organization teamed up with North Carolina's Department of Environmental Quality and groups represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center to devise a plan for basin closure that protects the surrounding communities and the environment.
North Carolina ordered Duke Energy to excavate all of its remaining active coal ash basins in April. The agreement announced Thursday signaled an end to litigation as Duke Energy agreed to close all nine basins across the six remaining plants in Belmont, Belews Creek, Roxboro, Semora, Mooresboro and Terrell.
Duke Energy said the company had 31 coal ash basins in North Carolina. Crews have excavated 10 of these sites already, and material from 12 sites will be recycled into construction material over the next 15 years.
According to the statement, the basins will be excavated and nearly 80 million tons of ash will be moved to lined landfills. Excavation at the six plants is expected to take between 10 and 15 years.
"This agreement significantly reduces the cost to close our coal ash basins in the Carolinas for our customers, while delivering the same environmental benefits as full excavation," Duke Energy's North Carolina president Stephen De May said in a written statement. "We are fully focused on these important activities and building a clean energy future for the Carolinas."
North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality called the excavation the "largest coal ash clean up in the nation's history" in a written statement Thursday.
The plan also detailed protections for drinking and recreational water supplies and promised to implement action plans to improve groundwater conditions by 2029.
"This agreement is a historic cleanup of coal ash pollution in North Carolina, and the Department of Environmental Quality and community groups throughout the state have provided essential leadership in obtaining it," Frank Holleman, a senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center, said in a written statement. "The water resources and families of North Carolina will benefit from this statewide coal ash cleanup for years to come."
For more information about the agreement, click here.