DEQ Does Not Classify All Coal Ash Sites By Deadline
Allen (Lake Wylie) and Marshall (Lake Norman) will be 'low' or 'intermediate' risk, though DEQ staff had internally recommended a 'high' rating
Contact: Sam Perkins (firstname.lastname@example.org) 704-651-5974
DEQ Fails to issue protective classifications for coal ash ponds
For Immediate Release: January 1, 2016
(Charlotte, N.C.) On Thursday, the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality released draft proposed coal ash pond classifications for most of the 14 sites in the state. However, five sites received low-to-intermediate classifications, which DEQ acknowledges means they could not decide in time for the December 31st, 2015, classification deadline set by 2014’s Coal Ash Management Act.
“It is disappointing that DEQ leadership not only failed to propose classifications for five of the largest coal ash sites in the state, DEQ indicated they were still considering ‘low risk’ classifications for these sites. This is why we still have active lawsuits – to do the job DEQ should and hold Duke accountable,” said Catawba Riverkeeper Sam Perkins.
Two weeks ago, internal documents from DEQ professional staff revealed recommendations of high or intermediate risk for all but one site in the state. “While yesterday’s release helps DEQ’s process move forward, knowing the internal recommendations, it is a sad display of politics and in once again trying to grant Duke Energy a favor. It is why our legal process will also continue to move forward.”
DEQ claims they do not have enough information from Duke Energy to make a classification at five sites, though they go ahead and note they believe those sites will be low or intermediate risk. “DEQ does not need more information for classification. As their staff recommended, Allen on Lake Wylie and Marshall on Lake Norman need to be high risk. They lie upstream of major drinking water reservoirs and are surrounded by hundreds of residents with drinking water wells contaminated by elements associated with unlined coal ash ponds. Delays like this one in the classification prolong an injustice to these people living one bottle at a time since April.”
Courts have recognized DEQ is disingenuous about holding Duke accountable. Earlier this year, the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina noted (case 1:14-cv-753): “The Court is unable to find that DENR was trying diligently or that its state enforcement action was calculated, in good faith, to require compliance with the [Clean Water] Act.”
“DEQ has long purported that decisions would be left up to facts and science, yet we have seen anything but that. This is why we remain in active litigation to secure coal ash cleanups at Allen on Lake Wylie and Marshall on Lake Norman, just as we ultimately secured on the Wateree River in 2012 and Riverbend on Mountain Island Lake in 2014.”
In February and March, DEQ will hold a public meeting in each county with a coal ash facility to receive comments on the proposed classifications.