Progress on Coal Ash in North Carolina

Catawba River, NC Riverbend Powerplant | © Jeff Cravotta

Today’s ruling sets the stage for Duke Energy to be required to remove contaminated material from their Riverbend site | © Jeff Cravotta

This week, an environmental victory was achieved in a North Carolina courtroom for people and wildlife that depend on clean water. This ruling from the North Carolina Superior Court obligates the largest utility in the country, Duke Energy, to better manage its coal ash and eliminate the source of groundwater contamination that is violating water quality standards at all 14 of its coal-fired power plants in North Carolina.

Coal ash, the byproduct of burning coal for electricity, is regularly stored in unlined ponds that leach heavy metals into surrounding groundwater. On the heels of the third largest coal ash spill in history on the Dan River, the state environmental regulatory agency in North Carolina stated that it did not have the legal authority to require the clean-up of coal ash ponds. However, today’s ruling empowers the state to protect water for people and nature.

In 2013, American Rivers named the Catawba River as one of America’s Most Endangered Rivers® due to the threat that coal ash ponds pose to drinking water supplies. In the Catawba watershed, coal ash and scrubber residue has been dumped into 551 acres of ponds— all lacking liners to prevent groundwater contamination. These ponds are permitted to discharge— even into drinking water reservoirs— arsenic, selenium, and other carcinogens at concentrations that far exceed the Environmental Protection Agency’s Maximum Contaminant Levels for drinking water. Decades of unlimited coal ash pond discharges have caused extreme soil and water contamination in Catawba drinking water reservoirs.

Given the ruling today, the next action we want would be for the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources to require Duke Energy to remove contaminated material from their Riverbend site on the Catawba River and dispose of it at a lined, monitored storage site.

This is great news towards cleaning up the Catawba and other rivers throughout North Carolina plagued with coal ash contamination.

American Rivers congratulates the tireless efforts of our clean water loving partners, including the Southern Environmental Law Center, Waterkeeper Alliance, Sierra Club, Western North Carolina Alliance, and others, who lead this court battle. We hope this victory is the first of many to ensure another Dan River or Kingston coal ash spill never happens again.

3 Responses to “Progress on Coal Ash in North Carolina”

Cliff Dweller

Dam issues cited at Cliffside plant
Mar. 09, 2014 @ 04:34 AM
MATTHEW CLARK – The Daily Courier (Rutherford County newspaper)

“A recent inspection of dams near coal ash basins at the Cliffside Steam Station yielded citations directed at Duke Energy from the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).”

“… concluded the “high-hazard” dams had deficiencies.
A letter from DENR to Duke outlined the issue and stated “a makeshift system consisting of sandbags, PVC pipe and tanks to collect the flow from the barrel was in place at the barrel outlet.”

… warranted immediate mitigation from a registered professional engineer and “in the event of dam failure, significant environmental damage to the Broad River could occur due to release of coal ash stored behind the dam.”

Investigators told Duke officials repairs must be approved by DENR before they are made.

However, DENR officials said there is nothing to indicate a potential for a coal ash spill similar to the Feb. 2 spill into the Dan River at Duke’s Eden facility.

“Our investigations have not turned up anything that would indicate that,” said Bridget Munger, DENR spokeswoman.

see entire article:

Cliff Dweller

“Customers, not investors, are expected to pay for the company moving coal ash ponds.”

“According to the North Carolina Utilities Commissioner, each customer is predicted to pay 50 to 75 cents a month for the next 10 to 15 years to cover the cost.”

WDBJ7 Reporter Justin Ward,
POSTED: 07:45 PM EDT Mar 12, 2014 UPDATED: 08:45 PM EDT Mar 12, 2014

(WDBJ TV — Roanoke, VA)

Dennis Woody

Not making lite of this spill, it seems to me everyone who isn’t a member of the current governing party isn’t,t working to correct the problem but just using it as away to point blame. And yes I’m a card carrying Democrat. It seems to me if these ponds causes so much damage to the environment,
who and why were they allowed to be used without proper safe guards and over site in the beginning. They are the ones who should be held accountable and exposed hoping they shed light on why this ponds were first approved and explain their relationship to the power companies.