Group seeks community action on coal ash

May. 21, 2014 @ 09:28 PM

A local environmental justice group wants to stir up grassroots support for pressuring Duke Energy to clean up coal ash along the Dan River — and into Kerr Lake.

Deborah Ferruccio and Leslie James, co-founders of Environmental Justice – Pollution Prevention, set up at Perry Memorial Library on Wednesday afternoon to tell residents what they could do to help.

“We’re just asking people to call their legislators, to press for Duke Energy to have the cleanup of the Dan River,” James said. “That’s what we’re pressing people in Henderson to do. They can go to the state legislature, speak to our representatives.”

James said people could also write letters to the editor, attend the June 4 coal ash lobby day in Raleigh and keep informed.

Legislators have already taken up the issue during the short session of the General Assembly, but Ferruccio said proposed legislation doesn’t go far enough.

The bill would require Duke to submit closure plans for four sites the utility has already said it plans to close; it would allow Duke to propose alternative solutions to 10 other sites, including covering the ash with plastic sheeting and soil and leaving it in place. It does not, as environmentalists have demanded, require Duke to remove all of its coal ash from unlined pits near rivers and lakes.

One of the people who stopped by the informal session was the Rev. Emma C. Bullock, a Tri-County native.

Bullock said she is active in the community and wants to help protect the water supply. She plans to spread the word on Facebook and email and call her state and federal representatives.

“Whenever something is going on in here, I stop and see what is going on to see if I can get involved,” she said.

On Feb. 2, a storm water pipe collapsed beneath Duke Energy’s coal ash pond at the Dan River Steam Station in Eden, sending toxic ash into the river that eventually empties into the John H. Kerr Reservoir. The reservoir provides drinking water to residents in Vance, Warren, Granville and Franklin counties and draws millions of tourists to Vance County alone each year.

Duke Energy CEO Lynn Good and other company officials have said Duke will take responsibility for the cleanup of the spill.

James and Ferruccio said they want to ensure coal ash that has settled at the bottom of the Dan and Kerr Lake is removed in addition to what’s visible on the surface to allow the waterways to continue to be a hub for the community.

“Our goal is to get them to see that in other places that they have done these kinds of cleanups, they have been able to maintain the status quo,” Ferruccio said. “Recreation has continued. Tourism has continued. People have been thrilled to see the dredging operations make their community, their waterway, safer and cleaner.”

But, the activists said, resident involvement is what will make that happen.

“All we’re trying to do is educate people and mobilize them so that they understand that their public sentiment matters, what they think matters, and that all of us together, thinking and acting, can push and make Duke do what they claimed they would do,” Ferruccio said.

 

Contact the writer at vshortley@hendersondispatch.com. Follow her on Twitter at @herding_stets.

 

To find out more about Environmental Justice – Pollution Prevention’s efforts, go to ej-pp.org.