Duke Energy has begun cleaning up land in Franklin where a plant manufactured coal gas more than 100 years ago. Duke is complying with state environmental rules that require the removal of contaminated soil at former gas plant sites.
Many cities used coal gas to light street lamps and homes before natural gas and electricity became widely available. The manufacturing process created tar as a byproduct – tar which often was not stored properly.
That was the case at two former gas plants in Franklin, where chemicals from the tar have been found in the soil. Duke has begun work at the first plant site which operated from about 1875 to the early 1900s.
As part of the cleanup, contractors will remove about 18 million pounds of dirt from two residential properties and a section of nearby Province Park.
Duke Energy spokesperson Lew Middleton says one house has been raised off its foundation and moved to make way for the excavation.
“Then we will rebuild the basement and the foundation, and then put the house back on that, put in clean dirt, put in new landscaping and then it’ll be ready for somebody to buy and to occupy,” he says.
Franklin Mayor Joe McGuinness says he was concerned about water contamination when first learned about the remediation plans. But he says conversations with officials from Duke and Mondell Construction have assuaged his concerns about water pollution
“We have a creek that runs just a few feet from where the remediation will take place,” McGuinness says. “They’ve assured me that they’ve already done a lot of sampling for the water, and that’s not just Duke and Mondell telling me that, that’s the state.”
Middleton says Duke plans to finish at the site by the end of the year. It will remediate the second gas plant site next year after finalizing plans with the Department of Environmental Management.