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Duke Energy Withdraws Application for Use of Controversial Chemical

Evidence of cancer-causing chemicals has been found downstream of Duke Energy power plants in North Carolia. (Momkay/Flickr)
Evidence of cancer-causing chemicals has been found downstream of Duke Energy power plants in North Carolia. (Momkay/Flickr)
June 22, 2017

RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina water won't have additional exposure to a potentially dangerous chemical. Duke Energy is no longer petitioning the state for permission to use additional quantities of bromide in its coal plant operations.

Bromide is a chemical that forms cancer-causing trihalomethanes when it comes into contact with downstream chlorine-based water treatment systems. The energy company withdrew its request after the Southern Environmental Law Center, on behalf of Clean Air Carolina and Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation, filed suit challenging Duke Energy's requested permit.

June Blotnick, executive director at Clean Air Carolina, explained the significance of the move.

"Having Duke Energy respond so quickly to the filing of our lawsuit is really significant because this is a major win for clean air and clean water,” Blotnick said.

Several communities downstream of coal-ash ponds in North Carolina have reported elevated levels of the cancer causing chemical. The Safe Drinking Water Act sets a federal limit for total trihalomethanes to protect water quality under the Safe Drinking Water Act.

Duke did not respond to request for comment.

Myra Blake, staff attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center, said this victory is just a small part of changes that need to happen.

"Duke Energy needs to find a way to meet all of its hazardous pollutant emission limits at its plants without adding substances that end up in downstream water intakes that can cause cancer,” Blake said.

Blotnick said she hopes the state’s citizens take note of the fact that coal-fired power plants impact air and water quality.

"I think this case highlights the destructiveness, really, of burning coal for electricity because it shows that burning coal doesn't just pollute the air but it pollutes the water,” Blotnick said.

She said the pollution has an impact on human health. Water officials for downstream water systems in Eden, Madison and Charlotte all have found evidence of carcinogens in their treated drinking water that they traced back to bromide discharges from Duke's power plants.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - NC