Press Release | April 11, 2017

Conservation Groups Put Duke Energy on Notice for its Coal Ash Open Dump Plan in Person County, N.C.

Chapel Hill, N.C.–The Southern Environmental Law Center, on behalf of the Roanoke River Basin Association, today sent Duke Energy official notice of its intent to bring an enforcement action in federal court against Duke Energy’s planned open dump for coal ash at Duke Energy’s Mayo facility in Person County, N.C.  In November of 2016, Duke Energy posted a public notice that it planned to leave over 6 million tons of coal ash at Mayo in an unlined, leaking pit sitting in 70 feet of groundwater near Mayo Lake.  The notice informs Duke Energy that it has violated the federal Coal Combustion Rule, which prohibits open dumps of coal ash that leave coal ash in groundwater or impound water and 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 Frank Holleman, senior attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center.  “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.”

Under the federal Coal Combustion Residuals Rule, Duke Energy was required to post its closure plan for the Mayo site in November 2016.     If coal ash is in groundwater, or if the “cap in place” plan impounds coal ash and water, then the closure plan constitutes an illegal open dump under the rule.  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 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.  The Southern Environmental Law Center 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 which could hold all the coal ash in its Mayo coal ash lagoon, as well as ash produced by the ongoing operation of the plant.

After 60 days, the Southern Environmental Law Center and the Roanoke River Basin Association may file an enforcement action against Duke Energy for open dumping.  The enforcement action would be filed in the United States District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina.  The Clean Water Act enforcement action against Duke Energy is also pending in that federal court.


About the Southern Environmental Law Center:
The Southern Environmental Law Center is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. With nine offices across the region (Charlottesville, VA; Chapel Hill, NC; Atlanta, GA; Charleston, SC; Washington, DC; Birmingham, AL; Nashville, TN; Asheville, NC; and Richmond, VA), SELC is widely recognized as the Southeast’s foremost environmental organization and regional leader. SELC works on a full range of environmental issues to protect the South’s natural resources and the health and well-being of all the people in our region.

About the Roanoke River Basin Association:
The Roanoke River Basin Association is a non-profit organization based in Danville, Virginia, whose mission is to establish and carry out a strategy for the development, use, preservation and enhancement of the resources of the Roanoke River system of lakes and streams in the best interest of present and future generations.  RRBA consists of hundreds of members, primarily located within the 410-mile-long Roanoke River basin in Virginia and North Carolina, including local governments; non-profit, civic and community organizations; regional government entities; businesses and individuals.

Are you a reporter and would like more information? Please visit our press contact page for a full list of SELC’s press contacts.

Press Contacts

Kathleen Sullivan

Senior Communications Manager (NC)

Phone: 919-945-7106
Email: [email protected]

Frank Holleman

Senior Attorney with a focus on litigation

Phone: 919-967-1450