Violation notices issued by DENR; fish near Kerr Lake checked

Mar. 03, 2014 @ 04:34 PM

State regulators have issued notices of violation for five Duke Energy power plants, in addition to two issued for violations at the Dan River power plant in Eden, for failure to obtain a federally mandated National Pollution Discharge Elimination System stormwater permit.

The violation notices are part of the state’s ongoing probe into Duke Energy’s coal ash ponds that was prompted by the collapse of a 48-inch stormwater pipe. The collapse on Feb. 2 caused a massive spill of coal ash into the Dan River, one which could potentially impact Kerr Lake.

The Dan flows into Kerr Lake, which is the primary source of drinking water in this area.

Duke officials said in early February that this pipe was completely sealed.

Duke Energy has 30 days to respond to the notices for the stormwater violations for all six facilities cited, according to a release from the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

The five additional facilities receiving notices of violation are the Belews Creek Steam Station in Rockingham County, Cliffside Steam Station in Rutherford County, Lee Steam Electric Plant in Wayne County, Roxboro Steam Electric Power Plant in Person County, and Sutton Steam Electric Plant in New Hanover County.

Last week, scientists with DENR also started collecting fish in the Dan River in Eden near the site of the coal ash spill to begin fish tissue testing to determine if fish are safe to eat.

“Fish tissues collected this week will serve as baseline data to compare against fish tissue samples collected later in the year,” a Feb. 24 DENR press release states. “Scientific research shows that it typically takes more than a few weeks for pollutants to accumulate in fish tissue. After these initial samples are taken, staff members plan to return in about one month, then six months and then a year from now to take additional fish tissue samples for comparison.”

One fish tissue sampling site will be upstream of the coal ash spill site while the other three will be at the Virginia state line, in Milton, and at the headwaters of Kerr Lake in Virginia, according to the Feb. 24 release.

DENR’s latest water quality tests show concentrations of iron and aluminum in the Dan River continue to decrease, but aluminum still exceeds surface water quality standards at all upstream and downstream sampling locations, according to a Feb. 27 DENR press release.

Staff with DENR reported last week that iron concentrations are now within state surface water quality standards at all the sampling stations, except at the Milton site, which is the site farthest downstream from the spill.

Contact the writer at smansur@hendersondispatch.com.