Groups Seek Cleanup of Poisoned Groundwater
Conservation groups seek clean up of groundwater contaminated by unlined coal ash lagoons at 14 coal-fired power plants
Conservation groups asked the North Carolina Environmental Management Commission (EMC) to require Progress Energy Carolinas and Duke Energy Carolinas to clean up groundwater contaminated by old, unlined coal ash lagoons at 14 coal-fired power plants that have been leaking toxic substances for decades. Coal ash is the toxic waste that remains after coal is burned. The Southern Environmental Law Center filed the complaint with the EMC on behalf of the Cape Fear River Watch, Sierra Club, Waterkeeper Alliance and Western North Carolina Alliance.
Self-monitoring by Progress Energy Carolinas confirms that contamination around its coal ash waste ponds at its Asheville and L. V. Sutton facilities exceeded state standards for groundwater quality. Progress and Duke Energy Carolinas’ own reporting also confirms contamination at 12 other facilities across the state. Despite the acknowledged contamination, the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources has not required the utilities to clean up these sites. The filing asks the state to take decisive action to protect North Carolina’s residents.
Among the coal waste contaminants that exceeded state standards in groundwater at the Asheville plant near the French Broad River and L.V. Sutton plant near the Cape Fear River are thallium and selenium. Thallium is a poison and suspected to cause cancer in people. Additionally, thallium is highly water soluble and nearly tasteless, making it difficult to detect in groundwater and hard for residents to identify its presence and protect themselves. In high amounts, selenium causes illness and neurological damage in people, even death in extreme cases.
Arsenic levels exceeded state groundwater standards at the Sutton plant on the Cape Fear River. Epidemiological studies have suggested a correlation between chronic consumption of water contaminated with arsenic and the incidence of cancer and many leading causes of death.
"Years ago, I found 681 exceedances of the North Carolina groundwater standard for arsenic, boron, cadmium, chloride, chromium, iron, lead, manganese, pH, sulfate and total dissolved solids at ash ponds across North Carolina," said Donna Lisenby of Waterkeeper Alliance. "Levels of these pollutants were up to 380 times higher than the North Carolina groundwater standard, yet Duke and Progress completely failed to take any meaningful steps to clean up their toxic water pollution. Today, we acted to safeguard the health of our communities and waterways by demanding that the state of North Carolina force these irresponsible utilities to clean up the poisons they put in our groundwater.”
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