Group Granted Voice in Coal Ash Pollution Cases

Group Granted Voice in Coal Ash Pollution Cases

A North Carolina Superior Court has allowed the Roanoke River Basin Association, represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center, to participate as a full party in an enforcement action with respect to two Duke Energy coal ash sites near the Virginia border: Roxboro Steam Station in Person County on Hyco Lake and Mayo Steam Station on Mayo Lake near Roxboro. 

As a full party, RRBA will have the same rights as Duke Energy and DENR in the litigation.

The state failed to ensure safe storage of Duke’s coal ash at 10 out of 14 sites, so citizen conservation groups have stepped in to finish the job,” said Frank Holleman, senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center. “Every one of Duke Energy’s coal ash pits is illegally polluting North Carolina’s waters, and citizens are now enforcing the law at every single one of these sites.”

Numerous conservation groups are participating in the state court enforcement action for all the Duke Energy coal ash sites around North Carolina; RRBA previously joined the enforcement action as to the Dan River site, where Duke Energy’s disastrous coal ash spill occurred in February.

The N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources brought the statewide enforcement actions last year in response to a Clean Water Act notice sent by the Southern Environmental Law Center on behalf of Cape Fear River Watch, Waterkeeper Alliance, and the Sierra Club.

Duke stores a huge proportion its coal ash in leaking, unlined pits in the Roanoke River basin, and we must make certain that DENR takes the appropriate action to fix the problem,” said RRBA President Gene Addesso. “We will fight to ensure Duke is held accountable for illegally polluting the rivers and lakes of the Roanoke basin and that Duke’s coal ash is removed to lined, dry storage.”

The coal ash dams at both Roxboro and Mayo are High Hazard dams according to the state of North Carolina.  Duke stores 6.9 million tons of coal ash at its Mayo plant and 16.4 million tons at its Roxboro plant.  Scientists from Duke University have found elevated levels of arsenic and other coal ash pollution in Hyco Lake and Mayo Lake in recent years.

Fish deformities due to selenium coal ash poisoning have been found in Mayo Lake, and in 2008 a coal ash dam at Roxboro suffered a structural failure.

The coal ash legislation passed by the N.C. General Assembly this summer would allow DENR and a politically-appointed commission to decide whether coal ash can remain in place at these sites.  A federal criminal grand jury is investigating DENR’s relationship with Duke Energy.

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