N.C. files suit against Duke Energy for coal ash pollution

May 21, 2013 

— In response to a Notice of Intent to Sue filed by the Southern Environmental Law Center on behalf of the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation, the state of North Carolina has filed suit against Duke Energy for its coal ash pollution of Mountain Island Lake near Charlotte.

According to the press release from the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation, Mountain Island Lake is the source of drinking water for more than 8.6 million people in the Charlotte area, including city residents. Parties filing suit say Duke Energy has allowed toxic metals and other harmful substances from coal ash in unlined waste lagoons to pollute Mountain Island Lake, the Catawba River, and groundwater at its Riverbend facility, violating its water pollution elimination permit.

“Despite Duke Energy’s claims that leaks of contaminated water are a sign of a healthy dam, there’s nothing healthy – or legal – about discharging unregulated amounts of toxic and harmful pollutants into the drinking water supply for almost a million people around Charlotte,” said Frank Holleman, senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center. “It is dangerous and irresponsible to store toxic coal ash in leaking lagoons on the banks of Mountain Island Lake.”

North Carolina’s suit states Duke Energy’s “unpermitted seeps” at Mountain Island Lake violate state law and it “poses a serious danger to the health, safety, and welfare of the people of North Carolina and serious harm to the water resources of the state.”

In March, the law center and Catawba Riverkeeper gave a 60-day notice to Duke Energy and the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources that it intended to file suit against Duke Energy for its coal ash and arsenic water pollution at the Riverbend Steam Station in Gaston County.

Catawba Riverkeeper has been working with scientists and Duke University, as well as other organizations, for three years to document, what it calls, illegal seepages from the coal ash waste ponds.

“Duke CEO Jim Rogers publicly acknowledged the coal ash contamination at Riverbend and has promised that Duke Energy ‘will ultimately end up cleaning up all that,’” said Richard Gaskins, executive director of the Catawba River Foundation. “The question is why Duke Energy isn’t willing to clean up its pollution and move its toxic coal ash to a lined, dry storage now, before even more contamination pollutes the water and sediments of Mountain Island Lake.”

A similar lawsuit by the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation and SELC against South Carolina utility SCE&G was settled last year when the utility agreed to move all 2.4 million tons of coal ash from its unlined Wateree Station lagoons to a lined landfill.

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