Conservation Groups Protect Mountain Island Lake
Chapel Hill, N.C.—The Southern Environmental Law Center today filed a motion on behalf of the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation to intervene in a challenge by Duke Energy that seeks to weaken a pollution discharge permit recently issued by the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality for Duke’s Riverbend coal ash site on Mountain Island Lake, the drinking water supply reservoir for Charlotte, Mecklenburg County, Mount Holly, and Gastonia, N.C.
“Duke Energy is seeking to weaken an important pollution control permit that is designed to protect the Charlotte area’s drinking water supply reservoir,” said Frank Holleman, senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center. “With the drinking water of almost one million people at risk, citizens must have a seat at the table to ensure our drinking water sources are adequately protected.”
Today’s filing in the state’s Office of Administrative Hearings seeks to prevent Duke Energy and the state from entering another sweetheart deal on coal ash pollution, as they have tried to do repeatedly in recent years. This appeal deals with the Clean Water Act permit designed to protect Mountain Island Lake on the Catawba River from coal ash pollution flowing out of Duke Energy’s Riverbend facility. In 2015 in another administrative proceeding, Duke Energy and DEQ purported to settle all groundwater claims in the state – including those at Riverbend – without notice to the public, and convinced an administrative judge to approve the settlement. In a challenge brought by SELC, that administrative court approval was recently rescinded. In 2013, DEQ and Duke Energy sought to settle all coal ash pollution claims at Riverbend without requiring Duke Energy to clean up the Riverbend coal ash lagoons. That settlement was withdrawn after a criminal grand jury issued subpoenas. Duke Energy was subsequently required to remove the ash from the Riverbend lagoons and pleaded guilty to criminal coal ash pollution at Riverbend.
In this proceeding, SELC is asking that the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation participate as a full party to Duke Energy’s challenge to its Clean Water Act discharge permit for coal ash lagoons at its retired Riverbend power plant. The coal ash lagoons are scheduled to be excavated to dry, lined storage by 2019, but will continue to leak streams of contaminated water into Mountain Island Lake until they are removed. In its appeal, Duke Energy challenges pollution limitations on contamination of water flows into Mountain Island Lake.
“Given the past history of DEQ and Duke Energy trying to enter into sweetheart deals that do not protect Mountain Island Lake, it’s essential that the Riverkeeper be present to speak up for the lake and the thousands of people who depend upon it for drinking water,” said Sam Perkins, the Catawba Riverkeeper. “Last summer, the DEQ Secretary had a private dinner with Duke Energy executives at the Governor’s mansion, and we want to be sure that no secret deals get implemented in this administrative proceeding. If this state government is truly open and transparent, there should be no reason not to have present a community representative who has worked diligently on this site and issue.”
About the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation:
The Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation is a nonprofit organization with members in South and North Carolina that works to protect and restore the Catawba/Wateree River and its watershed.