State agency seeks injunction in coal ash case
CHARLOTTE — A state environmental agency is seeking a court injunction against Duke Energy over groundwater that may have been contaminated by coal ash from a Charlotte-area power plant.
The N.C. Division of Water Quality took legal action Tuesday against the utility over its handling of coal ash at Mountain Island Lake — a major source of drinking water in North Carolina's largest city.
The complaint, filed in Wake County Superior Court, asks the court to force Duke to stop coal ash contamination from the company's Riverbend power plant. The company stores coal ash from the power plant in two lagoons. Coal ash is left after coal is burned to generate electricity.
The filing said the "unpermitted seeps" from the lagoons "poses a serious danger to the health, safety and welfare" to the people of North Carolina — and "serious harm" to the state's water resources.
The Southern Environmental Law Center praised the state's action. The group in March said it planned to sue Duke on behalf of the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation.
It says Duke has allowed toxic metals and other harmful substances from coal ash in unlined lagoons to pollute Mountain Island Lake, the Catawba River and other waterways near the Riverbend facility.
"It is dangerous and irresponsible to store toxic coal ash in leaking lagoons on the banks of Mountain Island Lake," said Frank Holleman, the environmental group's senior attorney.
Duke spokeswoman Erin Culbert said the company is reviewing the court filing. But she said the utility has complied diligently with the Riverbend water discharge permit.
"We appreciate the state's desire to obtain as much information as possible related to discharges to Mountain Island Lake and groundwater, and we expect to work closely with them on this matter," she said.
She noted that Duke has been monitoring water quality in Mountain Island Lake since 1953. She said the drinking water supplies are safe.
"The volume of ash basin seepage is extremely small and has zero impact to the overall water quality in the lake," she said.
This is the latest legal action taken by the state water quality division to stop coal ash pollution.
In March, the agency asked for a court injunction against a Duke subsidiary over groundwater that may have been contaminated by coal ash at an Asheville power plant.