The public will have a chance weigh in on new risk classifications and closure options for some Duke Energy coal ash sites. The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality will hold information meetings in several communities this month.

DEQ officials recently approved the low-risk classification of several coal ash ponds. Those include Duke Energy's Belews Creek and Allen facilities.

The agency says the company has met criteria set forth in the state's Coal Ash Management Act (CAMA). It requires the company to establish permanent water supplies and rectify dam safety deficiencies.

The law also says the company must eventually close all of its ash basins across the state. The low-risk classification means that process could be excavation, capping the waste in place, or a hybrid approach.

Coal ash contains toxic substances and heavy metals. Environmentalists say unlined leaking pits at some sites are contaminating groundwater. They want the ash removed from every facility.

DEQ will hold six public meetings in January to gather comments. The first will take place in Stokes County on January 10 at Walnut Cove Elementary.

*You can Follow WFDD's Keri Brown on Twitter @kerib_news

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