I have a business located near the river where your city draws the water you drink. This business of mine makes a dangerous, toxic product, which is stored outside, that would ruin your city’s water source. The safest course of action would be to require me, the business owner, the one who makes this dangerous, toxic product, to move the production/storage of it to a different place. I refuse, saying that moving it would be cost prohibitive and it would likely result in you paying me money for moving it. Instead of moving the production of this dangerous, toxic product that is stored outside near the river where your city draws the water you drink, I want to put a plastic tarp over it.
Would you be OK with me just putting a plastic tarp over a dangerous, toxic product that could pollute and ruin your water supply? I suspect you would say NO and you would expect me to move this dangerous, toxic product away from the river so there is no possibility of it getting into the water. Since I put the product near the river, I suspect you would expect me to pay the cost for moving it. After all, it is my business and my product.
North Carolina officials said Tuesday that groundwater containing unsafe levels of arsenic apparently leaching from a Duke Energy coal ash dump is still pouring into the Dan River, which is already contaminated from a massive Feb. 2 spill.
The state Department of Environment and Natural Resources ordered Duke to stop the flow of contaminated water coming out a pipe that runs under a huge coal ash dump at its Eden power plant. A nearby pipe at the same dump collapsed without warning two weeks ago, coating the bottom of the Dan River with toxic ash as far as 70 miles downstream.
State regulators expressed concern five days ago that the second pipe could fail, triggering a new spill. The water coming out of that pipe contains poisonous arsenic at 14 times the level considered safe for human contact, according to test results released by the state on Tuesday.
“We are ordering Duke Energy to eliminate this unauthorized discharge immediately,” said Tom Reeder, director of the N.C. Division of Water Resources.
Video taken last week by a robot sent inside the 36-inch-wide concrete pipe showed wide gaps between seams through which groundwater is gushing in, likely from the toxic dump above.
Tests on water from the pipe before it goes under the dump showed none of the dangerous contamination detected at the other end. The concrete inside the pipe is heavily stained around the numerous leaks, suggesting the contamination is likely not new.
A state inspector received the video recorded by Duke during a Feb. 11 visit to the site, but did not review it until Thursday. On Friday night, the state agency went public with concerns about the pipe’s structural integrity.
Duke spokeswoman Paige Sheehan quickly issued a statement, downplaying the risk.
“After reviewing the videotape, we determined that no immediate action was necessary,” it said…
…Meanwhile, Duke Energy announced Tuesday that its fourth-quarter profits jumped 58 percent after officials in North Carolina and other states approved hikes in the rates customers pay for electricity. The company had revenues of $24.6 billion for 2013.
George Everett, Duke’s director of environmental and legislative affairs, told state legislators this week that the company is sorry for the spill and will be accountable.
Any costs incurred because of the cleanup will likely be passed on to ratepayers, not shareholders, he said…
The North Carolina legislature is considering requiring Duke Energy to remove all of its coal ash away from state rivers and lakes. To me, this is the prudent, responsible thing to do, but as we all know, prudent and responsible is not what Duke Energy is known for. Instead of acting in an environmentally and socially responsible way, Duke Energy is only concerned with maximizing shareholder profits.
…all of Duke’s 33 unlined dumps at 14 coal-fired power plants scattered across the state are oozing out contaminants into groundwater. All told, Duke has more than 100 million tons of the ash, which contains potentially harmful chemicals including arsenic, lead, mercury and chromium…
Duke Energy told North Carolina lawmakers Tuesday that removing all of the company’s coal ash away from the state’s rivers and lakes would take decades and cost up to $10 billion, with its electricity customers likely footing nearly all the bill.
In a presentation to a state legislative committee, Duke’s North Carolina president Paul Newton suggested the company needs flexibility to consider more cost-efficient options. The company’s proposal is to remove the coal ash from unlined dumps at four of its power plants, but then leave much of what is stored at 10 other sites in place after covering it with plastic and soil…
…Earlier this year, Brian Williams, a conservationist with the Dan River Basin Association, took a CBS News crew 20 miles downstream of the coal ash spill at a retired plant in Eden, N.C.
“It was just giant, gray sludge pouring into the river,” Williams said. “It’s down here on the bottom and it’s mixing with the sediment and it’s constantly leeching out the toxins that are in the coal ash.”..
The company has said it will pay for the spill cleanup, but may ask state regulators to raise the rates it charges customers for any additional costs incurred as a result of new regulations or requirements at its other sites…
Molly Diggins, speaking on behalf of the North Carolina Sierra Club, had this to say:
“Despite being a Fortune 500 company, with profits of $2.7 billion last year, Duke Energy has successfully been allowed to manage its wet coal ash waste as if the clock had stopped half a century ago. Coal ash is a can that has been kicked down the road for far too long. The Dan River spill was a terrible disaster, but it’s opened all our eyes to the reality that we need to deal with our state’s coal ash problem now. “
Duke Energy should be required to move the coal ash and pay for it from their company profits. It is Duke Energy, not the people of North Carolina, that are culpable for the pollution and environmental damage done to the state’s rivers, lakes, and ground water. What remains to be seen is whether North Carolina officials have the backbone to stand up to Duke Energy.
…Other analyses have turned up even larger figures for Duke Energy’s giving to McCrory, in part because they included donations from North Carolina-based Progress Energy, which is now a Duke subsidiary. For example, a 2013 report by the campaign finance watchdog group Democracy North Carolina found McCrory received over $300,000 in direct contributions for his 2008 and 2012 gubernatorial campaigns from Duke/Progress-related donors. In addition, Duke/Progress gave an additional $761,800 to the Republican Governors Association, a major GOP committee that helped McCrory’s campaign.
And earlier this year, Democracy North Carolina released a follow-up report that detailed an additional $437,000 in contributions from Duke/Progress donors to Republican causes in 2013. Meanwhile, how much the company may have contributed to Renew North Carolina, a pro-McCrory shadow campaign committee, is not known because the 501(c)(4) nonprofit is not legally required to disclose its donors and to date has not done so voluntarily.
Duke Energy, which became the nation’s largest utility following its merger with Progress Energy, has also contributed over $1 million to the campaigns of North Carolina lawmakers. In addition, a recent analysis by Facing South revealed the company contributed $175,000 to a Washington, D.C.-based Republican super PAC that played a major role in a 2012 North Carolina Supreme Court race. Duke Energy is current embroiled in two legal controversies — one over cleaning up its coal ash and the other over its merger with Progress Energy — that could eventually end up before the state’s high court…
It remains to be seen if Governor McCrory and the North Carolina state legislature will put the safety and welfare of North Carolinian’s ahead of the campaign donations they receive from Duke Energy.