SELC, partner prepare to challenge Duke Energy plans for another leaky coal ash dump in N.C.

Duke Energy’s Mayo plant sits on the shores of North Carolina’s Mayo Lake, which is a popular recreation area. (© Sanjay Suchak)

Update (6/20/17): With no progress from Duke Energy on addressing the numerous violations related to coal ash pollution at its Mayo plant detailed below, SELC filed for enforcement action this week. The filling is believed to be the first citizen enforcement action taken under the new rule.


Today SELC and the Roanoke River Basin Association put Duke Energy on notice that the utility’s plan to store toxin-laden coal ash in groundwater in a leaking pit will not go unchallenged.

In November 2016, Duke Energy posted a public notice that it planned to leave over 6 million tons of coal ash at its Mayo plant in an unlined, leaking pit sitting in 70 feet of groundwater near Mayo Lake in Person County. Today’s notice informs Duke Energy that this approach violates the federal Coal Combustion Residuals Rule, which prohibits open dumps of coal ash that leave coal ash in groundwater or hold water mixed with coal ash.

“Duke Energy plans an open dump for its coal ash at Mayo, with millions of tons of coal ash sitting in an unlined primitive pit in 70 feet of groundwater next to the lake,” said SELC Senior Attorney Frank Holleman. “Duke Energy has been polluting groundwater, Mayo Lake, and the Dan River Basin for years. It’s well past time that Duke Energy complied with the law and removed its Mayo coal ash to safe, dry, lined storage where it won’t pollute clean water and drinking water supplies.”

The federal Coal Combustion Residuals Rule required Duke Energy to post its closure plan for the Mayo site. Duke Energy’s closure plan for Mayo leaves coal ash in 70 feet of groundwater and impounds water and coal ash by way of a dam, in violation of the standards for coal ash storage under the Coal Combustion Residuals Rule and the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act.

“Duke Energy has been polluting the clean water and the drinking water supplies of the Dan River and Roanoke River Basins for years,” said Mike Pucci, President of the Roanoke River Basin Association. “We’re asking only that Duke Energy do the responsible thing and move its ash at Mayo to its on-site modern landfill where the coal ash won’t pollute the clean water of North Carolina and Virginia.”

Duke Energy’s coal ash storage at Mayo pollutes groundwater, the lake, and an adjacent stream. In a recent study, Duke University scientists found that fish in Mayo Lake are contaminated with selenium, a coal ash pollutant.

There is a pending state court enforcement action against Duke Energy for its illegal pollution at Mayo, and the Southern Environmental Law Center and the Roanoke River Basin Association are parties in that enforcement proceeding. SELC and the Roanoke River Basin Association are also enforcing the Clean Water Act against Duke Energy for its coal ash pollution at Mayo.

Duke Energy has a modern lined landfill at the Mayo facility that could hold all of the plant’s coal ash currently on site, as well as future production.

 

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