Press Release | October 7, 2013

Duke Coal Ash Pollution Ruining Public Drinking Water Resource in Wilmington, NC

Coal ash pollution from Duke Energy Progress’s Sutton coal-fired power plant is forcing the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority to abandon groundwater wells that now provide drinking water to the Flemington community in Wilmington. Due to the advance of coal ash contamination from the Sutton plant, the utility will be forced to build a new waterline to replace the wells according to the Sunday Wilmington Star News.

On June 9, 2013, the Southern Environmental Law Center sent notice of its intent to sue Duke and then filed a federal lawsuit against Duke on September 13 for its unlawful groundwater contamination and threat to the Flemington community’s drinking water wells and pollution of Sutton Lake.  SELC acted on behalf of Cape Fear River Watch, the Sierra Club, and the Waterkeeper Alliance.  On August 27, these groups also moved to intervene in an enforcement action filed by North Carolina in response to SELC’s Notice.

“Our enforcement actions are forcing Duke to take responsibility for its years of illegal pollution of the water resources of the Wilmington community,” said Frank Holleman, Senior Attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center.  “It is good that the Flemington community will get a reliable source of clean drinking water, but it is a shame that Duke is ruining a public water resource, and now Duke must clean up its pollution.”

The new water line is expected to cost $2.25 million, with the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority paying $472,000 and Duke paying the rest.  The new water line will not address Duke’s ongoing groundwater pollution, but will provide a replacement water supply for the Flemington community.

“There is no reason that the local community should be paying almost half a million dollars to make up for Duke’s illegal pollution,” said Kemp Burdette, the Cape Fear Riverkeeper.  “Duke should pay the full cost and should clean up its pollution.”

For years, Duke has stored its coal ash at Sutton in lagoons without synthetic liners, and for years toxic substances such as arsenic and selenium have been leaking from the coal ash into the groundwater and Sutton Lake.

The groundwater at Sutton flows toward the Flemington community and also toward Sutton Lake, a popular fishing lake.  “Waterkeeper Alliance will continue bringing legal challenges to force Duke Energy to address decades of contamination from hazardous coal ash waste at Sutton and 13 more sites in communities all across NC,” said Donna Lisenby, Global Coal Campaign Coordinator for the Waterkeeper Alliance. “All of Duke’s toxic waste dumps must be cleaned up for the health and safety of thousands of North Carolinians who rely on water nearby for drinking, cooking, bathing, fishing, swimming and boating.”

About Cape Fear River Watch
Founded in 1993, Cape Fear River Watch works to protect and improve the water quality of the Lower Cape Fear River Basin through education, advocacy, and action.

About the Sierra Club
Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization. Inspired by nature, we are 2.1 million of your friends and neighbors, working together to protect our communities and the planet. Read more at

About the 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.


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Press Contacts

Frank Holleman

Senior Attorney with a focus on litigation

Phone: 919-967-1450