Quantcast
Energy

Breaking: North Carolina Regulators Take Legal Action Against Duke Energy for Coal Ash Dumping

North Carolina environmental regulators have cited Duke Energy for violating the conditions of a wastewater permit after it illegally dumped an estimated 61 million gallons of coal ash wastewater into a Cape Fear River tributary, according to Waterkeeper Alliance

The state's Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) issued the citation on Thursday for the permit violations after state officials discovered the dumping during a March 11 inspection at Duke Energy's Cape Fear Steam Electric Plant.

 

[blackoutgallery id="326556"]

 

Regulators said the wastewater was flushed from two large, confined lagoons and into the on-site canal that empties in an unnamed tributary, which connects with the Cape Fear River. The state agency calculated its estimate based on log books Duke Energy maintained for the pumping activities.

 

Waterkeeper Alliance released aerial surveillance photos taken from a fixed-wing aircraft last week catching Duke Energy workers in the act of pumping the wastewater.

 

"After more than a week of indecisiveness, DENR conceded that Duke’s secret pumping was indeed illegal, but yet again, DENR’s action only came after Waterkeeper Alliance and the Cape Fear Riverkeeper caught Duke in the act with aerial surveillance photos,” said Donna Lisenby, Waterkeeper Alliance’s global coal campaign coordinator. “Once again, citizens and shrewd investigative reporters had to work overtime to pick up the slack because DENR had failed to notice this egregious dumping for several months."

 

The pumps and attached hoses were set up in the pair of coal ash lagoons but were not in use when state officials visited the plant last week. The pumping equipment has since been removed.

 

The March 11 visit to the Cape Fear plant was part of DENR’s inspections of all Duke Energy’s facilities with coal ash lagoons.

 

The inspections were announced in the wake of the Feb. 2 coal ash spill at the Dan River plant. The detailed information the state is gathering about each facility will factor into the state’s future decision-making with regard to all of North Carolina's coal ash lagoons.

"Duke says it is 'accepting full responsibility' for the Dan River spill," said Cape Fear Riverkeeper Kemp Burdette. "How are we to believe them when they have been deliberately pumping their toxic waste into the Cape Fear River, including on the very same day millions more gallons of sludge were also spilling into the Dan River as a result of Duke's carelessness." 

State officials have notified cities downstream of the findings at the Cape Fear plant.

 

None of the downstream municipalities have reported problems meeting U.S. Environmental Protection Agency drinking water standards. However, DENR officials are collecting water samples in the Cape Fear River downstream from the plant to determine if surface water meets state water quality standards.

 

Duke Energy is permitted by the state to discharge treated wastewater from the ash ponds into the canal through vertical spillway pipes, known as risers. The coal ash lagoons and risers at the Cape Fear plant provide physical treatment that allows heavier, more concentrated ash residuals to settle to the bottom of the lagoons over time.

 

Yet the state’s investigation revealed that the pumping activities bypassed the riser structures and accelerated the drawing down of the lagoons so much that they no longer properly functioned as treatment systems.

 

According to Duke Energy, the company was using a temporary pumping system to lower water levels in two basins at the Cape Fear plant to perform upcoming maintenance.

 

“We were notified by phone in August that Duke Energy intended to conduct routine maintenance work at these ash ponds,” said Tom Reeder, director of the NC Division of Water Resources. “The state’s investigation revealed that the pumping activities ongoing at this plant far exceeded what would reasonably be considered routine maintenance.”

 

Prior to the March 11 inspection, staff with the Division of Water Resources inspected the Cape Fear plant on Dec. 6. During that visit, the state inspector noticed parts of disconnected pumping equipment on the berm next to one of the lagoons, but its levels did not appear to be lower.

 

Duke Energy did not mention to the inspector during the Dec. 6 inspection that pumping had been on-going in the months prior to the inspection. 

 

By law, the state agency can issue civil penalties for violations of state environmental laws but is required to give the company 10 days to respond to the notice of violation.

"Duke Energy has had such a cozy relationship with NC regulators and legislators for so long they don't even think twice about breaking the law with respect to their poisonous coal ash pollution," said Waterkeeper Alliance attorney Peter Harrison.

Visit EcoWatch’s COAL and WATER pages for more related news on this topic.

 

Show Comments ()
Sponsored
The Dutch Weed Burger is made from three types of algae. The Dutch Weed Burger

How Marine Algae Could Help Feed the World

By William Moomaw and Asaf Tzachor

Our planet faces a growing food crisis. According to the United Nations, more than 800 million people are regularly undernourished. By 2050, an additional 2 to 3 billion new guests will join the planetary dinner table.

Meeting this challenge involves not only providing sufficient calories for every person, but also assuring a balanced diet that includes the protein and nutrients that are essential to good health. In a newly published study, we explain how marine microalgae could be a sustainable solution for solving global macro-hunger.

Keep reading... Show less
A Bureau of Land Management contractor's helicopter forces a wild horse into a trap during the recent roundup at the Salt Wells Creek. Steve Paige

Brutal Outlook for Healthy Wild Horses and Burros: BLM Calls for Shooting 90,000

On Thursday, the National Wild Horse and Burro Advisory Board recklessly voted to approve recommendations that call on the Bureau of Land Management to shoot tens of thousands of healthy wild horses and burros.

At its meeting in Grand Junction, Colorado, the advisory board recommended that BLM achieve its on-range population goal of 26,715 wild horses and burros while also phasing out the use of long-term holding facilities—both within three years.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
www.youtube.com

‘Geostorm’ Movie and Climate Hacking: Are the Dangers Real?

By Jane A. Flegal and Andrew Maynard

Hollywood's latest disaster flick, "Geostorm," is premised on the idea that humans have figured out how to control the earth's climate. A powerful satellite-based technology allows users to fine-tune the weather, overcoming the ravages of climate change. Everyone, everywhere can quite literally "have a nice day," until—spoiler alert!—things do not go as planned.

Admittedly, the movie is a fantasy set in a deeply unrealistic near-future. But coming on the heels of one of the most extreme hurricane seasons in recent history, it's tempting to imagine a world where we could regulate the weather.

Keep reading... Show less
Popular
Area 1002 of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge coastal plain. Wikimedia Commons

GOP-Controlled Senate Paves Way for Oil Drilling in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge

The Senate Republicans' narrow passage of the 2018 budget plan on Thursday opened the door for oil and gas drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve (ANWR).

But Democratic lawmakers and environmental groups criticized the GOP for sneaking the "backdoor drilling provision" through the budget process. Past proposals to drill in the refuge have consistently failed.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Business
iStock

Corporate Fleets Making the Switch to Electric Vehicles

By Gina Coplon-Newfield and Sung-Jae Park

Recently, 10 major transnational corporations launched EV100, a new global initiative to slash emissions by increasing the number of corporate fleet electric vehicles (EV) on the road. EV100 companies, including Ikea, Unilever and HP, are committing to, by 2030, integrate EVs into their owned or leased fleets and install EV charging stations for customers and employees.

The full initial list of companies, many of which operate many thousands of fleet vehicles, includes: Baidu, Deutsche Post DHL Group, Heathrow Airport, HP Inc., IKEA Group, LeasePlan, METRO AG, PG&E, Unilever and Vattenfall. Vattenfall, the Swedish power company that serves most of Europe, intends to meet the campaign's commitments, and then some. "Replacing our whole 3,500 car fleet with EV in the coming five years, working with our customers to deploy charging infrastructure, and building northern Europe's biggest connected charging network, are three examples of actions we are taking to promote a sustainable and climate smarter living for customers and citizens," Magnus Hall, CEO of Vattenfall, said.

Keep reading... Show less
Climate
www.youtube.com

Losses From California Wildfires Top $1 Billion, Expected to Rise 'Dramatically'

Insured losses from fires in Northern California have topped $1 billion and are expected to rise "dramatically," state insurance officials announced Thursday.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored
Insights
Damage from Hurricane Maria. La Organización Boricuá de Agricultura Ecológica

Puerto Rico's Revival Depends on Empowering Small-Scale Farmers

Reporting by Saulo Araujo

Houses without roofs and trees without leaves is all the eyes could see in the week following the devastation that Hurricane Maria wrought. The Category 5 storm with 150+ miles per hour winds was the strongest to hit the island in over a century, leaving the entire population without water and power. Weeks later 3 million people are still without electricity.

Up in the mountains, small-scale farmers lost their crops, and their ability to feed their families was abruptly leveled. La Organización Boricuá de Agricultura Ecológica (Boricuá) a grassroots organization of more than 100 families made up of small-scale farmers, farmworkers and organizers across Puerto Rico and the islands of Vieques & Culebra, continues working to communicate with their members in rural areas and to assess the damages. Boricua has made great progress in the last three decades to organize and support farmers, facilitate farmer-to-farmer trainings, and build solidarity nationally and globally. They are helping to fuel agroecology on the island, bringing locally grown, nutritious food to their communities and to market.

Keep reading... Show less
Energy
The damaged oil platform in Lake Pontchartrain, LA after the Oct. 15 explosion. U.S. Coast Guard

Gulf Oil Spill Off Louisiana Coast Is 2x Bigger Than Original Estimate

LLOG Exploration Company, LLC drastically underestimated the amount of oil its fractured pipeline spilled into the Gulf of Mexico last week.

The oil and gas operator first estimated that it spewed about 340,000 gallons of oil. Now, according to a Coast Guard announcement, the company is now reporting a discharge of 672,000 gallons—about two times the initial estimate.

Keep reading... Show less
Sponsored

mail-copy

Get EcoWatch in your inbox