NORTH CAROLINA: Groups say coal ash dumps polluting 3 NC rivers - WNCN: News, Weather

Groups say coal ash dumps polluting 3 NC rivers

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Video from Waterkeeper Alliance showing the Cape Fear River near Duke Energy's Cape Fear Plant. Video from Waterkeeper Alliance showing the Cape Fear River near Duke Energy's Cape Fear Plant.
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. -

An environmental group said Tuesday that it's planning to use the federal Clean Water Act to sue Duke Energy over coal ash pollution that threatens drinking water and public safety near three North Carolina power plants.

The Southern Environmental Law Center, on behalf of several environmental groups, filed a notice of intent to sue Duke for violations at the company's Cape Fear, Lee and Buck plants.

The state Department of Environment and Natural Resources filed enforcement actions last year against Duke for coal-ash pollution at those plants. But the environmental law group said regulators failed to include many of Duke's violations and didn't require the $50 billion Charlotte-based company to clean up those sites.

In addition, the state didn't force Duke to take specific action to ensure that dams holding back millions of tons of toxic waste are safe, said Frank Holleman, the environmental law group's senior attorney.

"These coal ash lagoons threaten public drinking-water supplies, flow illegally into rivers and groundwater and have unsafe dams. Yet Duke Energy has not cleaned up these sites and DENR had not required Duke Energy to clean them up," he said.

State environmental agency spokesman Drew Elliot said agency officials could not comment because they had not seen the filing Tuesday afternoon.

Duke spokeswoman Paige Sheehan said the company was reviewing the complaint.

"Duke Energy continues to be committed to closing its North Carolina ash basins in a way that's fact-based and environmentally sound," she said.

The filing is the latest effort by environmental groups that say the state hasn't done enough to force Duke to clean up its coal-ash pollution.

The issue was brought to the public's attention after a Feb. 2 massive spill of coal ash at Duke's plant in Eden coated more than 70 miles of the Dan River in toxic waste.

State lawmakers are currently considering legislation that would require the $50 billion company to move some or all of its toxic sludge from 33 unlined pits scattered at 14 sites across the state.

But the issue of using the Clean Water Act to address the issue began in January 2013, when the environmental law group filed a notice of intent to sue Duke in federal court over coal-ash pollution at the company's Asheville plant.

Holleman said they decided to sue Duke for violations at the Cape Fear, Buck and Lee plants because nothing has been done over the past year to stop the pollution.

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