Duke Energy’s plan to leave coal ash in groundwater, floodplain violates federal law, groups say

Duke Energy’s Roxboro plant and millions of tons of toxin-laden coal ash sit in groundwater on the shores of Hyco Lake and Sargents River.   (© Sanjay Suchak)

UPDATE, 8/2/17: Today SELC filed suit against Duke Energy for its plan to improperly store coal ash at its Roxboro plant in eastern North Carolina. Background on the suit is available below.


SELC, on behalf of the Roanoke River Basin Association, today sent notice of its intent to enforce national standards of coal ash storage against Duke Energy’s proposed plan to keep its leaking, unlined coal ash pits at Duke Energy’s Roxboro facility in Person County, North Carolina. Duke Energy proposes leaving its coal ash in Roxboro in over 60 feet of groundwater next to Hyco Lake and Sargents River, and in a floodplain. The notice informs Duke Energy of its violation of the federal Coal Combustion Residuals Rule, which has been in place since 2015.

“Duke Energy proposes to leave millions of tons of Roxboro coal ash saturated in groundwater and sitting in a floodplain forever,” said Senior Attorney Frank Holleman. “Duke Energy companies have pleaded guilty 18 times to nine Clean Water Act crimes for their coal ash pollution in North Carolina, and it’s well past time for Duke Energy to obey the law and protect our clean water from its polluting coal ash.”

At its Roxboro facility, Duke Energy stores 19 million tons of coal ash in two leaking, unlined pits on the banks of Hyco Lake and Sargents River within the Dan River and Roanoke River Basins. These pits leak and pollute groundwater, Sargents River, and Hyco Lake, which is popular for fishing and boating, and surrounded by homes. In the past, Duke Energy’s coal ash pollution severely harmed the fish population of Hyco Lake and caused water quality violations in the lake. Duke Energy’s own consultants found that anglers should not regularly eat fish from the lake due to coal ash pollution.

Several years earlier, the Dan River and Roanoke River Basins were impacted by Duke Energy’s 2014 spill, which dumped millions of gallons of coal-ash polluted water and 39,000 tons of coal ash into the Dan River.

“Duke Energy needs to start protecting the Dan River and the Roanoke River Basin from its coal ash pollution and stop polluting our clean water resources,” said Mike Pucci, President of the Roanoke River Basin. “Duke Energy companies have already pleaded guilty for the Dan River spill and need to start acting responsibility by getting their coal ash pollution out of our rivers.”

SELC previously filed a Clean Water Act suit against Duke Energy for its coal ash pollution at Roxboro. That case is now pending in the United States District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina.

SELC has notified Duke Energy of similar violations of the Coal Combustion Residuals Rule at its Mayo facility, which is just a few miles from the Roxboro facility. At that facility Duke Energy again proposes leaving coal ash in a polluting unlined, leaking coal ash pit sitting in groundwater.

Duke Energy’s coal ash pollution at both the Roxboro and the Mayo facilities is the subject of a concurrent state court enforcement action brought by SELC and pending the N.C. Superior Court in Raleigh.

At the end of a 60-day notice period started by SELC’s filing today, an action enforcing the Coal Combustion Residuals Rule against Duke Energy at its Roxboro facility may be filed in the United States District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina.

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