Press Release | May 31, 2017

Duke Energy’s Plan to Leave Coal Ash in Groundwater and Floodplain at Roxboro Violates Law

Chapel Hill, N.C.– The Southern Environmental Law Center, on behalf of the Roanoke River Basin Association, today sent notice of its intent to enforce national standards of coal ash storage against Duke Energy’s proposed plan to keep its leaking, unlined coal ash pits as open dumps at Duke Energy’s Roxboro facility in Person County, North Carolina.  Duke Energy proposes to leave its coal ash in Roxboro in over 60 feet of groundwater next to Hyco Lake and Sargents River and in a floodplain.  The notice informs Duke Energy of its violation of the Coal Combustion Residuals Rule, which has been in place since 2015.  Coal ash storage in violation of the rule is an open dump under federal law.

“Duke Energy proposes to leave millions of tons of Roxboro coal ash saturated in groundwater and sitting in a floodplain forever,” said Frank Holleman, senior attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center.  “Duke Energy companies have pleaded guilty 18 times to nine Clean Water Act crimes for their coal ash pollution in North Carolina, and it’s well past time for Duke Energy to obey the law and protect our clean water from its polluting coal ash.”

At its Roxboro facility, Duke Energy stores 19 million tons of coal ash in two leaking, unlined pits on the banks of Hyco Lake and Sargents River within the Dan River and Roanoke River Basins.  These pits leak and pollute groundwater, Sargents River, and Hyco Lake, popular for fishing and boating, and surrounded by homes.  In the past, Duke Energy’s coal ash pollution severely harmed the fish population of Hyco Lake and caused water quality violations in the lake.  Duke Energy’s own consultants found that anglers should not regularly eat fish from the lake due to coal ash pollution.  The Dan River and Roanoke River Basins were impacted by Duke Energy’s 2014 Dan River spill, which dumped millions of gallons of coal-ash polluted water and 39,000 tons of coal ash into the Dan River.

“Duke Energy needs to start protecting the Dan River and the Roanoke River Basin from its coal ash pollution and stop polluting our clean water resources,” said Mike Pucci, President of the Roanoke River Basin.  “Duke Energy companies have already pleaded guilty for the Dan River spill and need to start acting responsibility by getting their coal ash pollution out of our rivers.”

The Southern Environmental Law Center previously filed a Clean Water Act suit on behalf of the Roanoke River Basin Association against Duke Energy for its coal ash pollution at Roxboro.  That case is now pending in the United States District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina.
 
Regarding Duke Energy’s Mayo facility, the Southern Environmental Law Center, also on behalf of the association, brought a similar suit against Duke Energy for its violation of the Coal Combustion Residuals Rule at its Mayo facility, which is just a few miles from the Roxboro facility.  At that facility also, Duke Energy proposes to leave coal ash in a polluting unlined, leaking coal ash pit sitting in groundwater.

Duke Energy’s coal ash pollution at both the Roxboro and the Mayo facilities is the subject of a state court enforcement action pending the N.C. Superior Court in Raleigh.  The Southern Environmental Law Center also represents the Association in that action.

At the end of a 60-day notice period, an action enforcing the Coal Combustion Residuals Rule against Duke Energy at its Roxboro facility may be filed in the United States District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina.

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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. www.SouthernEnvironment.org

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.    https://www.rrba.org/

Press Contacts

Kathleen Sullivan

Senior Communications Manager (NC)

Phone: 919-945-7106
Email: ksullivan@selcnc.org

Frank Holleman

Senior Attorney with a focus on litigation

Phone: 919-967-1450