Duke Energy coal ash polluting N.C.’s Hyco Lake, violating Clean Water Act

Coal ash from Duke Energy's Roxboro plant is polluting adjacent Hyco Lake. (© Sanjay Suchak)

Today, on behalf of the Roanoke River Basin Association, SELC notified Duke Energy of its intent to file suit in federal court for illegal coal ash pollution of Hyco Lake and the Dan River and Roanoke River Basins. The pollution is leaking into the lake from Duke Energy’s Roxboro site in Person County, N.C. Duke Energy currently treats Hyco Lake and waterways that flow into it as unprotected pollution dumping grounds.

“Duke Energy is treating Hyco Lake like its own wastewater lagoon and polluting it with coal ash contaminants,” said SELC Senior Attorney Frank Holleman. “Hyco Lake is a major recreational asset for the people of North Carolina and should be protected from Duke Energy’s coal ash pollution.”

At Roxboro, Duke Energy is using an arm of Hyco Lake to dilute its pollution before it reaches an arbitrary “discharge” point in the lake. Duke Energy also treats Sargents River, which flows into Hyco Lake, as its own coal ash pollution channel.

In addition, Duke Energy is discharging coal ash pollutants to Hyco Lake via illegal leaks and contaminated groundwater that flow into the lake. The coal ash at Roxboro sits in unlined lagoons approximately 70 feet deep in groundwater, allowing pollutants to leach out continuously, in violation of Duke Energy’s permit. In 2007, the Environmental Protection Agency classified Hyco Lake as a “proven ecological damage case” due to the coal ash pollution.

“Hyco Lake a vital resource for our local economy,” said Mike Pucci, president of the Roanoke River Basin Association. “Hyco Lake hosts fishing tournaments and its waters flow downstream to Kerr Lake, supplying drinking water for thousands of people in North Carolina and Virginia. Duke Energy shouldn’t be using any part of this river basin as a dumping ground for its untreated coal ash pollution, especially after the Dan River coal ash spill.”

Hyco Lake and its tributaries are part of the Dan River Basin, which has suffered mightily due to Duke Energy’s coal ash management. The Dan River was the site of Duke Energy’s disastrous 2014 coal ash spill and Duke dumps its coal ash pollution into the Dan River from four coal ash sites.

Under the Clean Water Act, SELC and Roanoke River Basin Association can file suit in federal court 60 days after providing today’s notice to Duke Energy of the violations at Roxboro. As a result of court orders and binding agreements, Duke Energy is now required to excavate all of its coal ash from ten of its sites in North and South Carolina. Six leaking, unlined coal ash sites in North Carolina remain unresolved and are the subject of an ongoing enforcement action in state court addressing violations of state water pollution laws at these sites, including Roxboro.


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