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Duke Agrees to Clean Up More N.C. Coal Ash, Others Left Behind

Duke Agrees to Clean Up More N.C. Coal Ash, Others Left Behind

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Additional sites bring commitment to about half of sites in state, but sites with majority of remaining ash and with majority of contaminated drinking water wells remain uncommitted for cleanups

Duke Agrees to Clean Up More N.C. Coal Ash, Others Left Behind

Three coal ash ponds in a 29-mile span of the Catawba River.

Below is the Waterkeeper Alliance press release, which includes a statement from myself and other Riverkeepers. Let me also reiterate: Neither this announcement nor the $102 million fine do anything for the coal ash on the Catawba River at Allen (Lake Wylie) and Marshall (Lake Norman), which together comprise approximately one third of coal ash in North Carolina. Around these two sites also lie the majority of drinking water wells the state has said are too contaminated for drinking or cooking. If Duke Energy truly wants to take responsibility for these sites, it needs to clean up these sites just like those announced for cleanup today.

Duke Energy Agrees to Clean Up More North Carolina Coal Ash Dumps
Three more rivers to be protected from coal ash threat, while others left behind



●  Peter Harrison, Waterkeeper Alliance Staff Attorney,, (828) 582-0422

●  Kemp Burdette, Cape Fear Riverkeeper,, (910) 762-5606

●  Sam Perkins, Catawba Riverkeeper,, (704) 651-5974

●  Hartwell Carson, French Broad Riverkeeper,, (828) 258-8737

●  Matthew Starr, Upper Neuse Riverkeeper, , (919) 961-2240

●  Will Scott, Yadkin Riverkeeper,, (336) 722-4949

●  Christine Ellis, River Advocate, Winyah Rivers Foundation,, (843) 267-3161


Today, Duke Energy added three sites to the list of North Carolina facilities where the utility plans to remove coal ash from leaking waste ponds located near waterways. Duke announced it will close coal ash ponds at the H.F. Lee Plant near Goldsboro, Cape Fear Plant in Chatham County, and Weatherspoon Plant in Lumberton, transferring all of the ash stored in those ponds to lined dry landfills located farther away from major rivers. The company has now committed to full ash cleanups at half of its 14 coal ash dump sites across the state. Coal ash stored at the other seven facilities could remain in unlined, leaking pits for decades if the company and state regulators decide that ash removal is not necessary to contain contamination.

“We’re very pleased that Duke Energy has now committed to a full cleanup at half of its sites, but we’re also disappointed that this $50-billion company isn’t making the same commitment for the other seven plants in North Carolina,” said Waterkeeper Alliance attorney Peter Harrison. “We’re especially concerned that Duke hasn’t agreed to remove the coal ash from the Buck plant near Salisbury and the Allen plant near Charlotte, where recent test found 97% of nearby drinking water wells contain dangerous levels of contaminants associated with coal ash,” Harrison continued. “Why won’t Duke promise to clean up the coal ash in those communities, too?”

Waterkeeper Alliance has vowed to continue pressing Duke Energy for full cleanups of all the utility’s contaminated coal ash dumps in North Carolina.


Reactions from local Riverkeepers

Sam Perkins, Catawba Riverkeeper

-        Allen Steam Station (Belmont, N.C.)

-        Riverbend Steam Station (Mt. Holly, N.C.)

-        Marshall Steam Station (Terrell, N.C.)

“Surrounding Allen and Marshall are the majority of drinking water wells contaminated by coal ash in North Carolina. Unlike the sites announced for cleanups today, these two coal ash sites also are propped high above drinking water reservoirs that also provide significant property tax revenue. Given their proximity to millions of people and their problems being the same as or worse than coal ash sites in the state already slated for cleanups, what reason is there to leave them leaking in place? The damage done by Allen’s and Marshall’s coal ash – as well as the ongoing risk of large-scale disaster and crisis brought by a structural collapse – more than merits their cleanup, too.”


Kemp Burdette, Cape Fear Riverkeeper

-        Cape Fear Plant (Moncure, N.C.)

-        L.V. Sutton Steam Electric Plant (Wilmington, N.C.)

“Duke Energy’s commitment to clean up its Cape Fear Plant coal ash ponds is definitely a step in the right direction. The five ponds in Moncure are some of the most dangerous in the state, and currently discharge a toxic cocktail of heavy metals and carcinogens from numerous seeps into the Cape Fear River, upstream from drinking water intakes for over 500,000 North Carolinians. While this is good news for people in the Cape Fear Basin, all north Carolinians need clean and safe drinking water and Duke Energy needs to finish the job.”


Matthew Starr, Upper Neuse Riverkeeper

-        H.F. Lee Plant (Goldsboro, N.C.)

“This is a very good day for the Neuse River, the citizens that live in the greater Goldsboro community and everyone that enjoys and uses the Neuse River. For far too long the poisoning of groundwater and the Neuse River itself has been allowed to happen without consequence and this announcement will start the process for that to stop. But there are communities just like Goldsboro and rivers just like the Neuse where the process to stop the poisoning of surface and groundwater has not started and I implore the Department of Environmental and Natural Resources and Duke Energy to start that process.”


Christine Ellis, Winyah Rivers (a Waterkeeper organization)

-        W. H. Weatherspoon Plant (Lumberton, N.C.)

“The Lumber River community is celebrating today with the knowledge that this beautiful blackwater river, federally recognized as Wild and Scenic and state recognized as Natural and Scenic, will be free from the threat of coal ash pollution once Duke meets it commitment to excavate and remove the coal ash from the former Weatherspoon plant. However, we think all communities deserve to be free from this threat to enjoy their rivers.”


Will Scott, Yadkin Riverkeeper

-        Buck Steam Station (Salisbury, N.C.)

“We're disappointed that Duke Energy has not committed to clean up the ash ponds at Buck, where 44 out of 45 wells tested have received "Don't Drink Your Water letters. All NC citizens ought to have access to safe drinking water. The safest way to achieve that at Buck is to remove six million tons of ash slurry out of leaking, unlined ash pits between the Yadkin River and the Dukeville community."


Hartwell Carson, French Broad Riverkeeper

-        Asheville (N.C.) Electric Generating Plant

-        Cliffside Steam Station (Mooresboro, N.C.)

“Duke’s announcement that it will fully remove one of the leaking ash ponds at Cliffside is a step in the right direction, but more is needed. To protect North Carolina’s people and rivers, Duke needs to remove the ash from all the ponds at Cliffside as well as the rest of its toxic coal ash dumps across North Carolina.”

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Jan 25, 2017 NC Riverkeeper Report
From the perspectives of 12 NC Riverkeepers, this report discusses how multiple environmental issues pose challenges in the pursuit of clean, plentiful water. Whether you are in North Carolina or downstream in South Carolina, read this report about the state of environmental enforcement.
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The Community Foundation will fund Catawba Riverkeeper's work in Gaston County.
Dec 12, 2016 A Successful Launch of our Water Education Program at Great Falls Elementary
Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation in partnership with 4-H Clemson Cooperative Extension successfully completed our pilot Education Outreach Program with 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade students from Great Falls Elementary.
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86 volunteers collected 5,490 pounds of trash from Lake Wateree
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Click here to fill out a pollution report or to report water pollution to Catawba Riverkeeper by phone, call 1-888-679-9494 or 704-679-9494.  In addition, to informing your Riverkeeper, you should also report spills or contamination to federal, state and local environmental officials.

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Fish Advisories

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Fish consumption advisories have been issued throughout the Catawba-Wateree River basin.  Many of these advisories are the result of testing initiated by Catawba Riverkeeper and confirmed by state and local officials.  For a chart identifying fish types with the applicable advisories for the Charlotte area, click here.   For more information about the fish advisories, click here.

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