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DENR: Duke coal ash pond pumping could be illegal

March 17, 2014 - Ben Klein

From the LA Times:

"While poring over regulatory documents for Duke Energy coal ash ponds, environmentalists at the Waterkeeper Alliance grew suspicious of the way the giant utility was handling the toxic ash waste left over from burning coal.

They decided to send up a team in an aircraft to photograph Duke's shuttered Cape Fear coal-burning power plant and ash ponds, tucked into piney woods in this tiny community in central North Carolina.

The photos revealed what the Waterkeeper Alliance says is evidence that Duke, the nation's largest electric utility, is deliberately pumping toxic coal ash wastewater from the containment ponds into a canal that eventually feeds into the Cape Fear River, a source of drinking water for downstream cities.

In the photos, two portable pumps and hoses can be seen drawing water from a coal ash pond and dumping into the canal and into nearby woods. According to the environmental group, that is a criminal violation of the Clean Water Act and state laws.

"They were trying to hide it. It was just dumb luck that we caught them at it," said Peter Harrison, staff attorney for the alliance.

State regulators said the pumping could be illegal, and added that they were investigating the incident."

From the New York Times:

"Aerial photographs of two Duke coal ash ponds at the head of the Cape Fear River show portable pumps and hoses that appear to be siphoning water into a canal leading to the river.

A spokesman for the state’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources said on Saturday that its inspectors noticed the pumping while on a site visit last week. “We are investigating the utility’s actions,” the spokesman, Drew Elliot, said in an email. “While routine maintenance is allowed under the permit, discharge of untreated wastewater could be a violation.”

A spokesman for Duke, based in Charlotte, said the pumping was intended to lower the water level in the ponds, which contain a slurry of coal ash with toxic heavy metals, as part of a “routine maintenance” program and was allowed under the site’s antipollution permit."


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