Duke Energy cited for deficiencies at Rutherford Co. steam plant - WNCN: News, Weather

Duke Energy cited for deficiencies at Rutherford Co. steam plant

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Cliffside Steam Station, located on the Rutherford and Cleveland County line. (Duke Energy) Cliffside Steam Station, located on the Rutherford and Cleveland County line. (Duke Energy)
RALEIGH, N.C. -

Regulators have cited Duke Energy for deficiencies at one of its coal-burning plants in Rutherford County.

Staff with the state's Dam Safety Program noted deficiencies at dams at two coal ash ponds at the Cliffside Steam Station when they inspected the facility on March 1 and March 4.

The N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources issued Duke Energy notice of deficiency letters for the two dams late Wednesday afternoon.

DENR's citations for the two dams directed Duke Energy to make repairs in the following areas:

  • One of the corrugated metal spillway pipes the state agency inspected has deteriorated to the point that a Duke representative documented increased flow during a routine internal inspection. This issue was addressed earlier this week when officials used sandbags, PVC pipe and tanks to collect the flow and transport it to an ash pond onsite. Officials are working on a permanent solution.
  • A lack of grass cover growing along the crest of the dam, which would cause erosion. State officials directed Duke Energy to periodically apply seed and appropriate soil amendments to the dam embankment.
  • Inappropriate vegetation such as trees and bushes growing on the dam that could lead to internal erosion and cause the dam to fail after heavy rainfall. DENR directs Duke Energy to remove this vegetation and place grass cover on the dam.

The state considers both of the dams at the Cliffside Steam Station as "high hazard dams" that could result in significant environmental damage to the Broad River if a dam failure occurred, the letter states.

"We are investigating all aspects of the infrastructure used at these coal ash facilities, including the structural integrity of pipes and dams in and around the impoundments," DENR Secretary John Skvarla said.

"We will take appropriate action to enforce the laws and protect public health and the environment to prevent another coal ash spill like the one that happened in Eden."

Coals ash contains hazardous chemicals including arsenic, lead and mercury.

DENR has directed Duke Energy to hire a professional engineer to produce a plan for repairs to the dams within 10 days.

Regulators expressed concern Friday after finding groundwater trickling from a pipe at the Cliffside Steam Station. The pipe drains an emergency storm-water basin built on top of an old coal ash dump, but is only supposed to drain water in severe storms.

The pipe empties into rocks a few feet from the Broad River, but the agency said there is no indication the flow has reached the waterway.

The issue at Cliffside comes about four weeks after a similar pipe collapsed at Duke's plant in Eden, coating 70 miles of the Dan River with toxic sludge.

As a result of the Dan River spill, DENR issued two formal notices to Duke Energy for separate violations of wastewater and stormwater regulations. And on Monday, DENR announced that Duke Energy had been issued formal notices of violation at five more power plants for not having needed storm water permits, which are required to legally discharge rainwater draining from its power plants into public waterways.

DENR said staff in the state Division of Water Resources will inspect all permitted and unpermitted discharge points at Duke Energy's 14 coal ash impoundments in North Carolina.

DENR said officials plan to "map and photograph discharge points at the facilities with coal ash ponds, note the types of discharges and structural integrity of the pipes and other discharge outfalls, and collect and start analyzing water samples from all pipes."

DENR will also request that Duke Energy to provide regulators with its engineering and emergency action plans for all the company's facilities with coal ash impoundments.

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