Riverbend Steam Station

From Global Energy Monitor

Riverbend Steam Station is a coal-fired power station owned and operated by Duke Energy near Mount Holly, North Carolina.

The coal plant was retired in May 2013.[1]

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Plant Data

  • Owner/Parent Company: Duke Energy
  • Plant Nameplate Capacity: 466 MW (Megawatts)
  • Units and In-Service Dates: unit 4: 100 MW (1952), unit 5: 100 MW (1952), unit 6: 133 MW (1954), unit 7: 133 MW (1954)
  • Location: 175 Steamplant Station, Mount Holly, NC 28120
  • GPS Coordinates: 35.357778, -80.97
  • Coal Consumption:
  • Coal Source:
  • Number of Employees:

Emissions Data

  • 2006 CO2 Emissions: 2,390,418 tons
  • 2006 SO2 Emissions:
  • 2006 SO2 Emissions per MWh:
  • 2006 NOx Emissions:
  • 2005 Mercury Emissions:

Proposed coal unit closures

Riverbend started up in 1929. Its units 1 and 2 retired in 1979, and Unit 3 in 1976. Units 4 through 7, dating to the 1950s, will close in April 2013. Four smaller gas-fired units were retired in October 2012.[2]

More on plant closures at Duke

In September 2010, Duke Energy said it might close seven coal-fired units at its Carolinas power plants within five years as environmental regulations intensify. It may retire by 2015 all coal-fired units for which it's not economical to install sulfur dioxide controls called scrubbers. That would increase by 890 megawatts the coal plants Duke had planned to retire in 2009.

The retired units would be at Duke's Riverbend Steam Station in Gaston County, Buck Steam Station in Rowan County, and Lee Steam Plant in Anderson County, S.C. Duke said it might convert Lee from coal to natural gas fuel.[3]

Duke has already agreed to retire 800 megawatts of older coal units as part of an N.C. permit to build a new 825-megawatt unit under construction at the Cliffside Plant in Rutherford County. That will shutter four old units at Cliffside, two at Buck, three at Dan River Steam Station, and two at Riverbend.[3]

Duke's projections show the amount of its electricity generated with coal falling from 42 percent in 2011 to 29 percent in 2030. The share from nuclear power, in contrast, stays steady at 51 percent. The utility continues to plan for a new nuclear plant, its first since the mid-1980s, to open in Gaffney, S.C., in about 2020. Duke is also building two gas-fired power plants, to open at Buck in late 2011 and at Dan River in late 2012.[3]

On February 1, 2013, Duke announced it will close Riverbend and Buck Steam Station in April 2013, ahead of schedule, saying the plants were being little used.[4]

Death and disease attributable to fine particle pollution from Riverbend Steam Station

In 2010, Abt Associates issued a study commissioned by the Clean Air Task Force, a nonprofit research and advocacy organization, quantifying the deaths and other health effects attributable to fine particle pollution from coal-fired power plants.[5] Fine particle pollution consists of a complex mixture of soot, heavy metals, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxides. Among these particles, the most dangerous are those less than 2.5 microns in diameter, which are so tiny that they can evade the lung's natural defenses, enter the bloodstream, and be transported to vital organs. Impacts are especially severe among the elderly, children, and those with respiratory disease. The study found that over 13,000 deaths and tens of thousands of cases of chronic bronchitis, acute bronchitis, asthma, congestive heart failure, acute myocardial infarction, dysrhythmia, ischemic heart disease, chronic lung disease, and pneumonia each year are attributable to fine particle pollution from U.S. coal plant emissions. These deaths and illnesses are major examples of coal's external costs, i.e. uncompensated harms inflicted upon the public at large. Low-income and minority populations are disproportionately impacted as well, due to the tendency of companies to avoid locating power plants upwind of affluent communities. To monetize the health impact of fine particle pollution from each coal plant, Abt assigned a value of $7,300,000 to each 2010 mortality, based on a range of government and private studies. Valuations of illnesses ranged from $52 for an asthma episode to $440,000 for a case of chronic bronchitis.[6]

Table 1: Death and disease attributable to fine particle pollution from Riverbend Steam Station

Type of Impact Annual Incidence Valuation
Deaths 15 $110,000,000
Heart attacks 22 $2,400,000
Asthma attacks 260 $14,000
Hospital admissions 12 $260,000
Chronic bronchitis 10 $4,300,000
Asthma ER visits 15 $6,000

Source: "Find Your Risk from Power Plant Pollution," Clean Air Task Force interactive table, accessed February 2011

Renewal plant permit approved, with modifications

On Jan. 18, 2011, renewal permits for Duke Energy's Marshall Steam Station, Riverbend Steam Station, and G.G. Allen Steam Plant were approved by the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources division of water quality. Riverbend and Allen steam stations in Gaston County.The National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permits were renewed with some changes for the coal-fired power facilities that allow the discharge of treated wastewater to the Catawba River Basin, according to information from the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources.[7]

According to the department, the changes include:[7]

  • Quarterly monitoring for mercury was added to outfall from the coal ash ponds at the Riverbend Steam Station. This will establish a monitoring plan for mercury, selenium and arsenic that is consistent for all three permits.
  • Fish tissue monitoring, at least once per permit cycle, has been added to all three permits.
  • Semi-annual in-stream monitoring was added for arsenic, selenium, mercury, chromium, lead, cadmium, copper, zinc and total dissolved solids. The monitoring is to occur upstream and downstream of ash pond outfalls at all three facilities.
  • Liquid coal ash storage structures shall meet the dam design and safety requirements according to the state administrative code.

The permits also require Duke to install groundwater monitoring wells and to comply with groundwater standards, according to information from the state. While the permits require monitoring, the state didn’t go far enough, according to Catawba Riverkeeper David Merryman: “It’s disturbing to me that the state is allowing the unlimited release of mercury, selenium and arsenic into our waters." Merryman said he plans to look into the option of appealing the state’s decision on the permits.[7]

Coal Waste Site

"High Hazard" Surface Impoundments

Two of Riverbend Steam Station's unlined coal ash surface impoundments are on the EPA's official June 2009 list of Coal Combustion Residue (CCR) Surface Impoundments with High Hazard Potential Ratings. The rating applies to sites at which a dam failure would most likely cause loss of human life, but does not assess of the likelihood of such an event.[8]

High levels of arsenic found near plant

A 2012 Duke University-led study of coal ash contaminants published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology found high levels of toxic arsenic near the Riverbend Steam Station. The study reported contaminants downstream of coal plant ash settling ponds in the 11 lakes and rivers sampled. Concentrations tended to be highest in small bodies of water, such as 2,914-acre Mountain Island Lake. Water flowing into the lake from the Riverbend power plant’s ash ponds had arsenic concentrations up to nine times higher than the federal drinking water standard. It also found arsenic at levels that could harm aquatic life in water at the lake bottom, as it could accumulate in fish tissue. The Duke study also found high levels of contamination in the French Broad River in Asheville, and in Hyco and Mayo lakes near the Virginia line. Lakes Norman and Wylie were among other water bodies studied. The study also reported that plants equipped with scrubbers to control air pollution often discharged water high in selenium.

Mecklenburg County water quality officials had sampled lake water near the Riverbend discharge point eight times a year since mid-2009, and detected arsenic above the state water quality standard five times. Concentrations have been up to three times higher than the state standard. Mecklenburg officials had asked the state’s environmental agency to set tougher standards when permits for ash-pond discharges on the three Charlotte-area lakes were renewed in early 2011. N.C. officials included new limits only for copper and iron at Riverbend but ordered more sampling of water and fish near the power plants on all three Charlotte-area lakes. The new sampling has raised no red flags, according to Duke Energy; the plants have to sample their discharges for arsenic, mercury, and selenium, but don’t have fixed limits on those elements, suggesting power plant owners do not have to take action if they see high readings.[9]

Groups report coal waste leaks at Allen and Riverbend

In November 2012 the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation informed state and federal environmental regulators they discovered four seepage points from coal ash ponds, one from Duke's Allen Steam Station into Lake Wylie and three into Mountain Island Lake from Duke's Riverbend Steam Station. Lake Wylie provides drinking water for York County and Belmont, while Mountain Island Lake provides drinking water for Mecklenburg County.[10]

Citizen groups

Articles and Resources


  1. Form EIA-860 Data - Schedule 3, Generator Data, US EIA, 2014
  2. Bruce Henderson, "Duke Energy will close two aging coal plants in April," Charlotte Observer, Feb. 1, 2013.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Bruce Henderson, "Duke considers closing old coal plants" Charlotte Observer, Sep. 2, 2010.
  4. Bruce Henderson, "Duke Energy will close two aging coal plants in April," Charlotte Observer, Feb. 1, 2013.
  5. "The Toll from Coal: An Updated Assessment of Death and Disease from America's Dirtiest Energy Source," Clean Air Task Force, September 2010.
  6. "Technical Support Document for the Powerplant Impact Estimator Software Tool," Prepared for the Clean Air Task Force by Abt Associates, July 2010
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 Sharon McBrayer, "State approves permit for Catawba County coal-fired power station" Hickory Daily Record, Jan. 18, 2011.
  8. Coal waste
  9. Bruce Henderson, "Arsenic in Mountain Island Lake, study says," Charlotte Observer, Oct. 16, 2012.
  10. John Marks, "Group reports coal ash leaking into Lake Wylie," Charlotte Observer, Charlotte Observer, Nov. 20, 2012.

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