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Duke Admits Workers Pumped Coal-Ash Water into Cape Fear Watershed

Looking northwest, the 1985 and 1978 ash ponds and the retired Cape Fear Plant. In the background, the Deep River and the Haw River combine to form the Cape Fear River near Moncure, NC. Photo Credit: Rick Dove/Waterkeeper Alliance.

Looking northwest, the 1985 and 1978 ash ponds and the retired Cape Fear Plant. In the background, the Deep River and the Haw River combine to form the Cape Fear River near Moncure, NC. Photo Credit: Rick Dove/Waterkeeper Alliance.


March 18, 2014

MONCURE, N.C. - Water continues to leak from the coal-ash ponds at Duke Energy's retired power plant on the Dan River, but the power company now admits to pumping coal-ash water from its retired Cape Fear plant into the Cape Fear River Watershed. A company representative called it "maintenance."

Donna Lisenby, the global coal campaign coordinator for the Waterkeeper Alliance, discovered the pumps in an aerial inspection last week and described what she saw.

"They were pumping untreated coal-ash waste water out of those ponds. One of the portable pumps was pumping into the woods," she said.

Another pump was bypassing a permitted discharge structure so they could manually empty out the coal-ash pond, which the Waterkeeper Alliance said included more concentrated toxins. Lisenby pointed to laws which prohibit Duke from discharging any pollutant into a waterway without a proper permit, and North Carolina's Department of Environment and Natural Resources said the company did not notify that agency. The Cape Fear River provides public drinking water for residents in Fayetteville, Sanford, Dunn, Harnett County, Fort Bragg and Wilmington.

The Waterkeeper Alliance has spent four years investigating coal-ash ponds in North Carolina. Last year the state filed lawsuits against Duke for illegal pollution discharges from leaks in its 32 coal-ash ponds, but Lisenby said the legal action effectively blocks any citizen enforcement lawsuit.

"I can tell you with 100 percent certainty: Almost all the coal-ash pond dams that our riverkeepers have investigated in North Carolina have illegal leaks of typical coal-ash pollution. "

Duke Energy retired the Cape Fear Plant in September 2012. Duke claimed it did have a permit for the pumping the Waterkeeper Alliance and the state discovered last week, but so far the company has not produced a copy of that permit.

Stephanie Carroll Carson, Public News Service - NC