Enviro groups file lawsuit against Duke over Riverbend coal ash

The Southern Environmental Law Center on June 11 filed a second, this time federal, lawsuit against Duke Energy (NYSE: DUK) for its alleged pollution of Mountain Island Lake, the source of drinking water for people in the greater Charlotte, N.C., area.

The suit claims that Duke Energy has discharged toxic metals and other harmful substances from coal ash in unlined lagoons into Mountain Island Lake, the Catawba River, and groundwater at its now-shut Riverbend coal-fired facility for years, in violation of its water pollution elimination permit and state and federal laws.

This suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of North Carolina on behalf of the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation, follows a suit brought in Mecklenburg County state court by the state of North Carolina against Duke Energy. That suit was filed on May 24, in response to a 60-day notice filed in March by the Southern Environmental Law Center and the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation setting out their intent to bring suit against Duke Energy over Mountain Island Lake.

“North Carolina has not sought to enforce two of the strongest legal grounds for stopping Duke Energy’s pollution of Mountain Island Lake,” said Frank Holleman, senior attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center. “We have brought this [federal] suit to make sure that the people who drink the water from the Lake, live near the Lake, and enjoy the Lake have the strongest legal protection from Duke Energy’s pollution.”

In addition to the federal court lawsuit, on June 6 the Southern Environmental Law Center and the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation filed to intervene in North Carolina’s state court lawsuit.

Duke said in response to the May state lawsuit that it has diligently complied with Riverbend’s water discharge permit. Other points offered by Duke included that it has been monitoring water quality in Mountain Island Lake since 1953 and the lake’s water quality remains good, fish are healthy and drinking water supplies are safe. The volume of ash basin seepage is extremely small and has zero impact on the overall water quality in the lake, Duke added. Seepage is necessary for an earthen dam’s structural integrity, and the company said it has routinely informed the state of the seepage occurring at ash basin dams.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.