Conservation Groups Call for Cleanup of Duke Energy’s Coal Ash Pollution at Mountain Island Lake
On behalf of the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation, the Southern Environmental Law Center today submitted comments to the N.C. Department of the Environment and Natural Resources showing that the proposed settlement of illegal pollution by Duke Energy at Mountain Island Lake does not clean up the pollution, violates the law, and fails to deter illegal pollution by Duke Energy and others. The groups ask that the proposed settlement be revised to require cleanup of the pollution and comply with laws protecting groundwater and drinking water reservoirs.
“This proposed settlement does not stop Duke’s illegal pollution or clean it up,” said Frank Holleman, senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center. “The settlement violates North Carolina and federal law. And it sends a signal to big polluters that they can violate the law without serious consequences.”
Mountain Island Lake on the Catawba River in Gaston County is the drinking water reservoir for 860,000 people living in Mecklenburg County, Charlotte, Gastonia, and Mount Holly. At its Riverbend plant on the banks of the lake, Duke Energy stores 2.7 million tons of coal ash in unlined lagoons that discharge pollutants into the groundwater and that leak into the lake. Testing by the Catawba Riverkeeper has found arsenic, cobalt, iron, and manganese in the illegal discharges.
The suit that is the subject of the proposed settlement began when the Southern Environmental Law Center sent a required notice under the Clean Water Act to Duke and DENR informing them that it would bring an enforcement action within 60 days for Duke’s illegal pollution. Right before the 60-day period expired, DENR brought an enforcement action in state court, the first time it had brought such an action against Duke for its Mountain Island Lake pollution. DENR and Duke proposed a settlement after the Southern Environmental Law Center moved to intervene in the state’s enforcement suit. On Friday, the court granted the motion to intervene and made the Catawba Riverkeeper a party in the suit.
“We’re working to protect the Catawba River and our region’s drinking water,” said Sam Perkins, Catawba Riverkeeper. “Citizens must be involved to guarantee that the government and the polluter do the right thing. The illegal pollution must be stopped and cleaned up, to protect the river and our drinking water reservoir.”
Members of the public may submit comments on the proposed settlement through Wednesday, August 14. Comments can be sent to: firstname.lastname@example.org or to the Division of Water Quality, Attn: Lisa Palmer, 1617 Mail Service Center, Raleigh NC 27699-1617.
About the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation
The Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation is a nonprofit organization with members in South and North Carolina that works to protect and restore the Catawba/Wateree River and its watershed.