Press Release | August 30, 2016

North Carolina DEQ Seeks to Permit Duke Energy’s Leaks of Coal Ash Polluted Wastewater

Chapel Hill, N.C.—Three new permits proposed by the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality to allow Duke Energy once more to pollute the Roanoke River Basin with polluted wastewater —the same river basin where Duke Energy had its 2014 catastrophic spill—are a major step backward for clean water, according to the Southern Environmental Law Center and Roanoke River Basin Association (RRBA). The permits cover the Dan River site in Danville and the Mayo and Roxboro sites near Roxboro in Person County.

In 2014, Duke Energy’s Dan River site dumped over 20 million gallons of coal ash polluted wastewater and 39,000 tons of coal ash into the Dan River.  These permits would allow Duke Energy to dump many more million gallons of untreated coal ash polluted water from these three plants.  These permits also allow Duke Energy to turn streams into coal ash pollution ditches, or effluent channels, with no limits on Duke Energy’s coal ash pollution of them.

“It is hard to believe that North Carolina’s environmental agency would authorize Duke Energy to dump millions of gallons of untreated coal ash polluted water into the Dan River Basin after the catastrophe of the 2014 Dan River spill,” said Frank Holleman, senior attorney, Southern Environmental Law Center. “Instead of getting Duke Energy to clean up and stop its coal ash pollution, DEQ proposes to allow Duke Energy to put unlimited arsenic, mercury and lead from its coal ash pits into the lakes and rivers that the communities in the Dan River Basin depend on.”

In addition to allowing direct dumping of coal ash polluted water into rivers and lakes of the Roanoke River and Dan River Basins, these proposed permits allow Duke Energy to pollute streams and rivers in other ways. 

At all three sites, DEQ would allow Duke Energy to turn streams into wastewater ditches polluted with unregulated amounts of coal ash pollution.

At Mayo in Person County, the existing Clean Water Act permit prohibits any discharges into Crutchfield Branch, an important tributary of the Dan River that flows from North Carolina into Virginia. The new permit would legalize numerous flows of coal ash pollution into this stream from Duke Energy’s unlined, leaking earthen coal ash dam, and allow them to pollute Crutchfield Branch with unlimited amounts of arsenic, mercury, and many other pollutants. Crutchfield Branch already has water quality problems just downstream of Duke’s coal ash pit at Mayo.

At Mayo, DEQ also proposes to allow Duke Energy to pump out arsenic from the coal ash pit into Mayo Lake, a popular fishing destination, at 34 times the federal standard.

At Roxboro, the new permit would allow Duke Energy to pump out all the wastewater from its leaking, unlined coal ash lagoons ¬into Hyco Lake, a regional recreational lake, with no limits on toxic pollutants including arsenic, mercury, lead, thallium, and many others.

At Dan River, the new permit would allow Duke Energy to pump out all the polluted wastewater that remains in its unlined coal ash lagoons after the catastrophic 2014 spill into the Dan River, with no limits on arsenic, lead, thallium, and many other pollutants.

Despite a long history of known problems, these permits fail to require Duke Energy to stop polluting North Carolina and Virginia’s waters by removing its coal ash from these leaking, unlined pits.

“RRBA is absolutely opposed to DEQ’s actions in these proposed permits, and we will continue to fight for clean water in the Roanoke River Basin,” said Mike Pucci, President of the Roanoke River Basin Association.

The Southern Environmental Law Center represents the Roanoke River Basin Association in state and federal courts to clean up Duke Energy’s coal ash pollution at sites in the Roanoke River Basin.

In 2015, Duke Energy companies pleaded guilty 18 times to nine Clean Water Act crimes at five other sites across the state, including the Dan River site.


About the Southern Environmental Law Center:

The Southern Environmental Law Center is a regional nonprofit using the power of the law to protect the health and environment of the Southeast (Virginia, Tennessee, North and South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama). Founded in 1986, SELC's team of more than 60 legal and policy experts represent more than 100 partner groups on issues of climate change and energy, air and water quality, forests, the coast and wetlands, transportation, and land use.

About the Roanoke River Basin Association:

RRBA is a non-profit, 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization whose mission is to establish and carry out a strategy for the development, use, preservation and enhancement of the resources of the Roanoke River basin in the best interest of present and future generations of Basin residents. RRBA believes that basin resource conservation can co-exist with managed economic growth.

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
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