Public comment sought on proposed Duke coal ash order

RALEIGH – The N.C. Division of Water Quality invites the public to comment on a proposed consent order between the division, Duke Energy Progress, Inc. and Duke Energy Carolinas, LLC for claims related to the discharge of wastewater from the Asheville Steam Electric Generating Plant in Buncombe County and the Riverbend Steam Station in Gaston County.

The proposed consent order includes a timeline of required activities to address violations or threatened violations of state statutes and rules for water quality protection as alleged in the injunctive relief action filed in Wake County concerning the Asheville Plant (13 CVS 4061) and filed in Mecklenburg County concerning the Riverbend facility (13 CVS 9352). A copy of the proposed consent order can be downloaded from a link on the Division of Water Quality’s website ( under the Hot Topics section, or by contacting Susan Massengale at or 919-807-6359. 

The proposed consent order imposes a total initial monetary fine of $99,111.72. In addition, if the companies fail to comply in a timely manner with any provision of the consent order (including the timely submission of any document or plan and the completion of any activity), they would be subject to fines of  $1,000 per day for the first 30 days, and $5,000 per day thereafter for each violation. 

Both the Asheville Steam Electric Generating Plant and the Riverbend Steam Station are coal-fired electric generating facilities. Both facilities have state-issued National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits that address discharges to surface waters. In addition, both facilities are required to monitor groundwater. The Asheville plant discharges wastewater to the French Broad River, Lake Julian and an unnamed tributary of Powell Creek in the French Broad River basin. The Riverbend facility discharges wastewater to Mountain Island Lake. 

At both facilities, monitoring of groundwater at each plant’s compliance boundary revealed levels of chemical constituents that exceed requirements for groundwater protection. Also, state water quality inspectors believe that seeps, or releases of liquids not authorized as part of the permitted discharges, have occurred at both plants. 

The consent order requires a series of steps be taken to determine the cause, significance and extent of exceedances of groundwater standards, including any imminent hazards to public health and safety. Surface water sampling and analysis, beyond what is already required by the NPDES permits, is also required to address areas where unpermitted engineered or non-engineered seeps from the ash ponds have the potential to discharge to surface waters. In addition, certain permit conditions will be added to each facility’s NPDES permit. 

Written comments on the proposed consent order should be submitted by the end of the 30-day comment period that ends on Aug. 14. Comments by mail should be addressed to the N.C. DENR Division of Water Quality, to the attention of Lisa Palmer, 1617 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-1617 or by e-mail to