Press Release | March 20, 2014

Dan River Groups Seek Cleanup of Duke’s Coal Ash Pollution

CHAPEL HILL, N.C.—The Southern Environmental Law Center today filed motions to allow four conservation groups working on the Dan River to participate in the state court enforcement action against Duke Energy for its illegal coal ash pollution of the Dan River and groundwater drinking supplies.  SELC filed the motion on behalf of groups that monitor and protect the Dan River– the Dan River Basin Association, the Roanoke River Basin Association, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, and Waterkeeper Alliance.  They identified numerous illegal discharges ignored by the state in the aftermath of Duke’s disastrous coal ash spill last month.

“The tragic Dan River spill and the revelations of uncomfortably close ties between Duke Energy and DENR make it all the more important that citizens and local conservation groups have a seat at the table,” said Frank Holleman, the senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center who represents the groups in court.  “We will work to make sure that the Dan River is protected and that Duke Energy cleans up the Dan River site.”

The groups seek to stop and clean up unpermitted streams of contaminated surface water that have been discharging from the dikes of the Dan River coal ash lagoons since before the spill and are continuing today, as well as persistent groundwater pollution leaching from these unlined impoundments that documentation shows Duke Energy and the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources have known about since the early 1990s.  The illegal discharges at Dan River include high levels of coal ash pollutants such as arsenic and lead.

“It is important that local citizens in the Dan River Basin have a voice in the cleanup of Duke Energy’s coal ash pollution and DRBA can represent that voice,” said Allison Szuba, president of the Dan River Basin Association (DRBA) Board of Directors. “DRBA has been serving the North Carolina and Virginia communities in the basin for over a decade and we will continue to do so by doing what is necessary to prevent this from happening again.”

“This spill demonstrates the dire need to remove coal ash from impoundments adjacent to our lakes and rivers and into dry, lined storage,” said Gene Addesso, president of the Roanoke River Basin Association.  “We cannot allow these same negligent actions to continue polluting our water and putting at risk the citizens and businesses within the Roanoke River Basin that depend on this precious natural resource.”

Previously, the North Carolina court allowed other groups to intervene with respect to Duke’s coal ash sites on Mountain Island Lake, north of Charlotte; on Lakes Wylie and Norman along the Catawba River; Duke’s Asheville site; and its Sutton site near Wilmington on the Cape Fear River.  Seven conservation groups around the state have additional motions to intervene currently pending before the court.

“The Dan River site is an ongoing disaster, with illegal discharges pouring out of the coal ash lagoons everywhere you look,” said Waterkeeper Alliance’s Pete Harrison.  “Our rivers should be protected from the scourge of coal ash, and we should make sure that the Dan River is never again subjected to coal ash pollution and a catastrophic spill.”

The Southern Environmental Law Center represented conservation groups in South Carolina in several recent legal challenges, leading to South Carolina utilities SCE&G and Santee Cooper committing to remove 13.4 million tons of coal ash from unlined lagoons at four sites throughout the state.  All the South Carolina coal ash will be moved to dry storage in lined landfills or recycled.

“The Dan River spill shows all the things that are wrong with the primitive storage of coal ash in unlined, polluting pits next to our waterways,” said Ulla Reeves of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.  “It is long past time that the Dan River site was cleaned up, and moving all the Dan River coal ash away from the river to dry, lined storage should become the model for safe disposal of coal ash.”

About the Dan River Basin Association.

The Dan River Basin Association was created by residents to protect and promote the natural and cultural assets of the 3,300 square mile Dan River basin in Virginia and North Carolina through education, recreation and stewardship.

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.

About the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy
Southern Alliance for Clean Energy is a nonprofit organization that promotes responsible energy choices that create global warming solutions and ensure clean, safe, and healthy communities throughout the Southeast.

About Waterkeeper Alliance
Founded in 1999 by environmental attorney and activist Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and several veteran Waterkeeper Organizations, Waterkeeper Alliance is a global movement of on-the-water advocates who patrol and protect over 100,000 miles of rivers, streams and coastlines in North and South America, Europe, Australia, Asia and Africa.

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