North Carolina orders Duke Energy to clean up its coal ash pollution

Decision follows years of public outcry, pollution, crimes and spills

Sunset over the Catawba River Basin.  (© Ken Teeter)

After hundreds of North Carolina residents came out to meetings and called for Duke Energy’s coal ash to be moved to dry lined storage out of groundwater and away from waterways, the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality today announced it will order Duke Energy to move its coal ash stored in unlined, leaking pits at six sites across the state. For years (see the timeline here), North Carolina families have called upon their government and Duke Energy to clean up all the leaking unlined coal ash pits in the state.

Today North Carolina DEQ announced one of the most important steps in the state’s history to protect North Carolina’s waters and its citizens from toxic pollution.”

—Senior Attorney Frank Holleman

“Governor Cooper’s Department of Environmental Quality listened to North Carolina’s families, and today announced one of the most important steps in the state’s history to protect North Carolina’s waters and its citizens from toxic pollution,” said Senior Attorney Frank Holleman, who leads the SELC team representing citizen groups in court to seek cleanup of Duke Energy’s coal ash pollution. “This serious pollution has been studied for years, and the only way to protect North Carolina is to remove this toxic waste from polluting unlined waterfront pits. When the coal ash from all of these sites is finally removed, North Carolina’s rivers will be cleaner, North Carolina’s drinking water will be safer, and North Carolina’s communities will be more secure. We will no longer have to hold our breath every time a storm, a flood, or a hurricane hits a community with unlined coal ash pits sitting on the banks of waterways. Duke Energy should accept this decision, honor the views of the communities it is required to serve, and get about the business of getting its coal ash out of these unlined pits and away from our waterways to dry, lined, safe storage.”

With this decision, North Carolina joins South Carolina and Virginia in moving toward total excavation and a regional future without coal ash pollution and the threat of coal ash catastrophes.

The Southern Environmental Law Center represents the following citizen groups in court seeking cleanup of Duke Energy’s toxic-laden coal ash: Appalachian Voices, Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation, MountainTrue, the North Carolina NAACP, Roanoke River Basin Association, the Stokes County Branch of the NAACP, and Waterkeeper Alliance.

“This is a vindication of our years of work on these dangerous sites,” said Larissa Liebmann, staff attorney at Waterkeeper Alliance.

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