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Worker killed at coal ash dumpsite

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A dump truck drives down a coal ash pile at a dumpsite on U.S. 301 in the Battleboro community near Whitakers, where a worker was killed Monday.

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BY AMELIA HARPER AND LINDELL KAY
Staff Writers

Thursday, November 23, 2017

A coal ash dumpsite undergoing environmental remediation in northeastern Nash County has been closed during a federal and state investigation into a worker’s death earlier this week.

Gary Sigmon, 48, of Lincoln County, died Monday after being run over by a bulldozer at the Swift Creek Coal Combustion By-Product Structural Fill on U.S. 301 in the Battleboro community near Whitakers, according to the N.C. Department of Labor, which is investigating the incident.

Sigmon was working as a spotter for dump trucks when the incident occurred, Department of Labor spokesman Jason Tyson told the Telegram on Wednesday morning.

Sigmon realized a dump truck was dumping in the wrong location and went to stop it and ran into the path of a bulldozer, Tyson said. Nash County deputies responded to the site around 11 a.m. Monday. Sigmon died at the scene. He was the father of two children.

Tyson said the agency is looking into whether work safety standards were violated, and if so the company, Stanley-based Earnhardt Grading, could be cited and changes recommended. The investigation could take three to six months.

Officials with the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration were at the site Tuesday, said Scott Rogers, assistant director of Nash County Emergency Services.

The dump site, which has been running day and night for the past few months, was closed Wednesday. It wasn’t immediately clear when it would resume operations.

The Swift Creek site has been in the spotlight before. The site began accepting coal ash in 1992, but was shut down by state inspectors in 2002 after they discovered plans didn’t match original designs. The site was soon found to be leaking lead, arsenic and sulfate into the groundwater, according to archived news reports.

Full Circle Solutions, a Georgia-based company, purchased the site from ReUse Technology in 2003. Full Circle CEO Robert Waldrop didn’t respond to messages about the site.

The aging site is being remediated to remove the existing carbon waste and raise the floor of the dump above the groundwater table, according to documents obtained from the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

The improvements are meant to minimize rainfall infiltration and the discharge of material into groundwater, according to Jaclynne Drummond, a compliance hydrogeologist with the state’s Solid Waste Section, Division of Waste Management.

When the work is complete, the site will be monitored for five years to ensure compliance.

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