Enviro groups slam new North Carolina permits for Duke coal ash sites

The Southern Environmental Law Center in an Aug. 30 statement blasted three new permits proposed by the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality that it said would allow Duke Energy (NYSE: DUK) to once more pollute the Roanoke River Basin with power plant wastewater.

This is the same river basin where Duke Energy had its 2014 catastrophic spill from the shut Dan River power plant, according to the Southern Environmental Law Center and the Roanoke River Basin Association (RRBA). The permits cover the Dan River site in Danville and the operating Mayo and Roxboro coal plant sites in Person County.

In 2014, Duke Energy’s Dan River site dumped over 20 million gallons of coal ash polluted wastewater and 39,000 tons of coal ash into the Dan River. These permits would allow Duke Energy to dump many more million gallons of untreated coal ash polluted water from these three plants, said the environmental groups. These permits also allow Duke Energy to turn streams into coal ash pollution ditches, or effluent channels, with no limits on Duke Energy’s coal ash pollution of them, they added.

“It is hard to believe that North Carolina’s environmental agency would authorize Duke Energy to dump millions of gallons of untreated coal ash polluted water into the Dan River Basin after the catastrophe of the 2014 Dan River spill,” said Frank Holleman, senior attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center. “Instead of getting Duke Energy to clean up and stop its coal ash pollution, DEQ proposes to allow Duke Energy to put unlimited arsenic, mercury and lead from its coal ash pits into the lakes and rivers that the communities in the Dan River Basin depend on.”

  • At Mayo in Person County, the existing Clean Water Act permit prohibits any discharges into Crutchfield Branch, a tributary of the Dan River that flows from North Carolina into Virginia. The new permit would legalize numerous flows of coal ash pollution into this stream from Duke Energy’s unlined, leaking earthen coal ash dam, the groups said. At Mayo, DEQ also proposes to allow Duke Energy to pump out arsenic from the coal ash pit into Mayo Lake, a popular fishing destination, at 34 times the federal standard, the groups said.
  • At Roxboro, the new permit would allow Duke Energy to pump out all the wastewater from its leaking, unlined coal ash lagoons into Hyco Lake, a regional recreational lake, with no limits on toxic pollutants including arsenic, mercury, lead, thallium, and many others, they said.
  • At Dan River, the new permit would allow Duke Energy to pump out all the polluted wastewater that remains in its unlined coal ash lagoons after the catastrophic 2014 spill into the Dan River, with no limits on arsenic, lead, thallium, and many other pollutants, the groups added.

The Southern Environmental Law Center represents the Roanoke River Basin Association in state and federal courts to clean up Duke Energy’s coal ash pollution at sites in the Roanoke River Basin.

The DEQ on Aug. 26 went out for comment on these the draft National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits for wastewater discharges at Mayo and Roxboro. The public comment period for both draft wastewater permits begins Aug. 26 and ends Nov. 4. A public hearing for both Duke Energy facilities is scheduled for 6 p.m. Oct. 4 at the Person County Government Building.

The DEQ on Aug. 26 also said it will hold a public hearing on a proposed water quality permit for Duke Energy Progress’ Dan River Combined Cycle Station on Aug. 31. The hearing is being held to receive public comments on a draft industrial wastewater discharge permit for the plant. The public hearing will be held at 6 p.m. Aug. 31 at the Eden City Hall. The public comment period for the Dan River facility’s draft wastewater permit ends Aug. 31. This permit covers the 620-MW combined-cycle unit at the site, which went commercial in 2012, and also the coal ash facilities for the retired coal capacity at the site

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.