The Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation (CRF) has commented on two coal ash discharge proposals opened for 30-day public comment periods in January.
CRF worked with the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) — which represents CRF, Waterkeeper Alliance, MountainTrue and Sierra Club in litigation relating to the issues subject to comment — to develop and submit comments to the North Carolina’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) detailing the improvements that need to be seen in both proposals if coal ash pollution is going to be responsibly addressed.
The two proposals both relate to coal ash pollution discharges and determining how to move forward.
First, DEQ unveiled a new draft NPDES discharge permit for Marshall’s coal ash ponds. CRF had started a legal challenge on this permit renewal in October 2016 when a previous draft contained toxic provisions that have since been removed.
At the same time as the new draft Marshall permit was released, DEQ and Duke Energy proposed a Special Order by Consent (SOC) to address coal ash seep pollution at three coal ash sites: Allen (Lake Wylie), Marshall (Lake Norman) and Cliffside (aka Rogers; Broad River).
The comments express concerns with a lack of accountability and monitoring, especially given the history of problems Duke has had with its coal ash. The comments detail why DEQ must make substantial changes to both proposals if they are to be protective of waterways and communities. Specifically, DEQ and the proposals need to:
- Hold Duke Energy accountable for all of its coal ash pollution, including all types of seeps.
- Require a stop to all seepage — both engineered and non-engineered — unconditionally and without amnesty.
- Implement limits — and in some cases, monitoring at all — for contaminants known to be problems with coal ash but omitted from the proposals (e.g., cobalt, hexavalent chromium, manganese, vanadium).
- Limit bromide discharges that caused drinking water systems — including in Charlotte and Rock Hill — to exceed the Safe Drinking Water Act limit for trihalomethanes in treated drinking water.
- Require monitoring of all seeps (not a single seep deemed to be “representative”).
- Fix omissions and errors with seep locations. Significant seeps have not been included in the SOC, and the coordinate for the corrugated metal pipe Duke had lost for decades and CRF re-discovered in December 2016 had a coordinate 1,000 feet too far north.
- Require filtration when water is decanted and discharged from coal ash ponds. When Riverbend went through this process two years ago, arsenic levels in the discharge spiked, and filtration had to be added. This filtration is a simple, common sense solution that should be required throughout the discharges at other, larger sites.
- Require Duke to stay on-schedule for compliance with the Effluent Limitation Guideline (ELG) rule, which removes pollutants from discharges and Duke had previously said it could do by 2021 after the ELG rules were finalized in 2015. The current EPA has said it wants to consider weakening the ELG rules.
The deadline for comments on the SOC was February 14 and for the Marshall discharge permit was February 13.