Catawba River Among America’s Most Endangered Rivers
Coal Ash Pollution Threatens Water QualityApril 17th, 2013
Peter Raabe, American Rivers, 919-682-3500
Sam Perkins, Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation, 704-679-9494
Dr. Avner Vengosh, Duke University, 919-681-8050
Washington, D.C.- American Rivers named the Carolinas’ Catawba River among America’s Most Endangered Rivers® of 2013 today, shining a national spotlight on the riverside coal ash ponds currently leaking pollution and threatening water quality, human health, and local fish populations.
American Rivers and its partners are calling on the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources to require Duke Energy to ensure the Riverbend coal ash ponds are sufficiently maintained in perpetuity to safeguard the river and water supply for future generations.
“The America’s Most Endangered Rivers report is a call to action to save rivers that are facing a critical tipping point,” said Peter Raabe of American Rivers. “We all need healthy rivers. They provide our drinking water, support the economies of our communities, and promote public health and quality of life. We hope citizens will take action to ensure a healthy Catawba River for generations to come.”
Coal ash is formed at coal-fired power plants when coal is burned in boilers that generate steam for power generation. 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 EPA Maximum Contaminant Levels for drinking water. Recently at Duke Energy’s Riverbend Steam Station, a coal-fired power plant that sits adjacent to the drinking water source for 860,000 people, problems have appeared at the dam holding back the coal ash pond. Seeps are now coming out of the dam on all sides and into the reservoir, calling into question the dam’s structural integrity.
“Our testing around the coal ash ponds indicates high levels of pollutants at multiple sites. The problem is not just impending, it is already here. If left in place, these ponds will continue to threaten the drinking water supply for almost one million people for years to come,” said Sam Perkins, Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation.”
The Catawba River originates in the mountains of North Carolina, where it cascades through a series of waterfalls. It flows 300 miles to a spectacular coastal wetland, providing water for two million people and the world’s largest population of rocky shoal spider lilies along the way. The river’s free flowing sections provide excellent canoeing and kayaking opportunities.
The annual America’s Most Endangered Rivers® report is a list of rivers at a crossroads, where key decisions in the coming months will determine the rivers’ fates. Over the years, the report has helped spur many successes including the removal of outdated dams, the protection of rivers with Wild and Scenic designations, and the prevention of harmful development and pollution.