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Conservation Groups Push NC Power Companies to Clean Up Contamination

Photo: Aerial view of Progress Energy's coal fired power plant in Asheville. Courtesy: Kelly Martin
Photo: Aerial view of Progress Energy's coal fired power plant in Asheville. Courtesy: Kelly Martin
October 11, 2012

ASHEVILLE, N.C. - Duke Energy and Progress Energy are being asked by a group of environmental organizations to clean up coal ash contamination found at 14 coal-fired power plants around the state.

The Southern Environmental Law Center filed a complaint Wednesday on behalf of the group, asking the North Carolina Environmental Management Commission to require the power companies to clean up the sites.

Coal ash contains pollutants such as lead, mercury and arsenic, said Kelly Martin, spokeswoman for the Sierra Club, one of the groups involved.

"These chemicals can be harmful to our brains and nearly every major organ in our bodies. It's high time for Duke and Progress to take responsibility."

Martin says self monitoring by Progress Energy Carolinas confirms that contamination around its coal-ash waste ponds at its Asheville and Wilmington facilities fail to meet state standards for groundwater quality.

Martin says one example of the problem is cancer-causing thallium being found in groundwater near the historic French Broad River in Asheville. The French Broad increasingly is used as a recreation destination, and New Belgium Brewing is set to open its second location off the banks of the river. Martin says the state needs to step in.

"We think that they should follow the law and require that Progress and Duke immediately clean up the toxic wastes that are leeching into our groundwater and potentially into our rivers."

A spokesperson from Duke Energy said in a statement that "Duke Energy has not yet reviewed the filing these organizations have made." The statement went on to say that Duke Energy and Progress Energy have been sampling groundwater around their ash basins for years, and all that data has been reported to state regulators along the way.

Reporting for this story by North Carolina News Connection in association with Media in the Public Interest. Media in the Public Interest is funded in part by Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation.

Stephanie Carson/Stephanie Carroll Carson, Public News Service - NC