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Judge Allows Catawba Riverkeeper To Intervene in State Coal Ash Lawsuit

Judge Allows Catawba Riverkeeper To Intervene in State Coal Ash Lawsuit

A NC Judge ruled on Friday, August 9, that Catawba Riverkeeper may intervene in the Attorney General's lawsuits against Duke Energy relating to illegal discharges from coal ash ponds at the Riverbend Steam Station on Mountain Island Lake.

Judge Allows Catawba Riverkeeper To Intervene in State Coal Ash Lawsuit

Coal ash at Riverbend Power Plant

Press Release from the Southern Environmental Law Center

For Release: August 12, 2013


SELC, Kathleen Sullivan 919-945-7106 or


Sierra Club, Kelly Martin, 828-423-7845

Waterkeeper Alliance, Donna Lisenby, 704-277-6055

WNCA, French Broad Riverkeeper, Hartwell Carson, 828-258- 8737 x211


SELC, Frank Holleman 864-979-9432 (cell) or


Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation, Sam Perkins, 704-679-9494 or Rick Gaskins 704-408-3487


Conservation Groups Join State’s Lawsuits Against Duke Energy


RALIEGH and CHARLOTTE, N.C.—The Wake County and Mecklenburg County Superior Courts ruled late Friday that Conservation Groups represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center will join in state lawsuits against Duke Energy over pollution from coal ash at the French Broad River in Asheville and at Mountain Island Lake near Charlotte.  The Southern Environmental Law Center represents the Sierra Cub, the Waterkeeper Alliance, and the Western North Carolina Alliance in the Asheville suit and the Catawba Riverkeeper in Mountain Island Lake suit.

Duke Energy had sought to keep the Conservation Groups out of both suits.

“We’re pleased that the court allowed our participation in the lawsuit,” said Amelia Burnette, a senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center who represents the Asheville groups. “We’re committed to ensuring that Duke meets its legal mandate to stop and remedy unlawful pollution caused by its coal ash lagoons.”

The Asheville plant has two old coal ash lagoons, built in 1964 and 1982, that sprawl over 90 acres adjacent to the French Broad River, seven miles upstream from the City of Asheville.  The ash lagoons have been seeping for at least three decades, according to public records, and groundwater around the lagoons is contaminated with pollutants including boron, manganese, thallium, and selenium.


“Independent citizen groups must be at the table to ensure that the region’s drinking water is protected,” said Frank Holleman, senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center, representing the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation in the Mountain Island Lake suit.  “Now, we can work in the state suits to clean up Duke Energy’s coal ash pollution.”

Mountain Island Lake on the Catawba River in Gaston County is the drinking water reservoir for 860,000 people in Charlotte, Mecklenburg County, Gastonia, and Mount Holly.  Duke Energy stores 2.7 million tons of coal ash in lagoons on the banks of the Lake that leak into the drinking water reservoir, contaminate groundwater, and discharge pollutants including arsenic, cobalt, manganese, and iron.

Hartwell Carson, WNCA’s French Broad Riverkeeper, said storing millions of tons of coal ash right beside a major river like the French Broad is bound to cause problems. “And in this case, the lagoons are illegally polluting the river and have caused widespread groundwater contamination. Many recreationists in the region use the French Broad River, and it’s vitally important that polluters comply with laws designed to protect water quality,” Carson said.

Sam Perkins, the Catawba Riverkeeper, said:  “It is irresponsible to store 2.7 million tons of coal ash waste in leaking, polluting, unlined lagoons on the banks of Mountain Island Lake, the drinking water reservoir for one of the country’s largest metropolitan areas.  Our goal is to protect the Catawba and our drinking water.”

"Coal ash pollution is part of the toxic legacy of coal-fired power plants in North Carolina," said Kelly Martin of the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign. "The coal ash at Duke Energy's coal plants threatens our beautiful rivers, our drinking water, and the health of people living nearby. The Sierra Club and our partners want to protect our rivers and our communities, and we can do this better as part of the state's lawsuit."

The enforcement actions against Duke Energy’s coal ash pollution began when the Southern Environmental Law Center sent 60-Day Notices under the Clean Water Act to the North Carolina Department of the Environmental and Natural Resources and Duke Energy that it intended to bring suit against Duke Energy for its coal ash pollution in Asheville and at Mountain Island Lake.  Near the end of the notice periods, DENR filed these enforcement suits.  The Southern Environmental Law Center then moved to intervene in the suits, and Duke Energy opposed the participation of the Conservation Groups.


In the meantime, DENR and Duke Energy have proposed a settlement of the enforcement suits that would not require Duke Energy to clean up the coal ash pollution.  That settlement is now open for public comment until August 14, 2013, and has been subject to criticism by the Conservation Groups.  Any settlement would require court approval.


About 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 50 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 Sierra Club

The Sierra Club is America's largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with more than 1.4 million members and supporters nationwide. The Sierra Club works to safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying and litigation.

Visit us on the web at and follow us on Twitter at @sierra_club.

About Waterkeeper Alliance

Waterkeeper Alliance unites more than 200 Waterkeeper organizations that are on the front lines of the global water crisis patrolling and protecting more than 1.5 million square miles of rivers, lakes and coastlines in the Americas, Europe, Australia, Asia and Africa. Waterkeepers emphasize citizen advocacy to defend the fundamental human right to swimmable, drinkable, and fishable waters, and combine firsthand knowledge of their waterways with an unwavering commitment to the rights of their communities and to the rule of law.

About Western North Carolina Alliance

For 30 years, the Western North Carolina Alliance has been a trusted community partner, marshaling grassroots support to keep our forests healthy, our air and water clean, and our communities vibrant. WNCA empowers citizens to be advocates for livable communities and the natural environment of Western North Carolina.

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.








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The Community Foundation will fund Catawba Riverkeeper's work in Gaston County.
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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.

To report South Carolina water pollution call 1-888-481-0125.

To report North Carolina spills or fish kills, call your local regional Department of Environment & Natural Resources office during normal business hours (704-663-1699 for most Catawba basin areas or (828) 296-4500 for Burke, Caldwell, McDowell and other mountain counties) or 800-858-0368 after hours.  (For more information on NC spill reporting, click here)


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Fish Advisories

fish consumption chart crop

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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