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home : news : e-news February 18, 2018

2/13/2018 12:11:00 AM
DEQ Holds Public Hearing At Citizens Center
The Marshall Steam Station on Lake Norman (just off NC150 near the Catawba-Iredell line) is one of three locations included in the SOC.
The Marshall Steam Station on Lake
Norman (just off NC150 near the
Catawba-Iredell line) is one of three
locations included in the SOC.

Wayne Howard
Staff Writer

To some, the notice on the electronic sign in front of the James W. Warren Citizens Center may well be the only thing they've seen about a hearing that is scheduled to happen there Tuesday evening (Feb. 13th) at 6 PM. Even then, those who saw the message earlier may have been confused by its wording.

The public hearing is so the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality can receive input on the Special Order by Consent (SOC) for three of Duke Energy's power plants – Marshall, Allen and Cliffside. [Why the notice on the sign said 'Roxboro,' we don't know.  It has since been changed.]

SOCs are agreements made between the DEQ and facilities that have been consistently unable to comply with their wastewater discharge permits. SOCs can be useful when they require polluters to address problems that cannot be fixed quickly.

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Duke has agreed to speed up the timeline for draining most of the water from coal ash basins at Marshall, Allen and Cliffside in a process known as decanting. Removing the water from the ponds is a necessary step and should stop some of the discharges of contaminated wastewater, known as seeps. In addition, Duke will pay a one-time penalty of only $84,000 for 21 of these seeps.

At the hearing, DEQ is also seeking feedback on Duke Energy’s request for modification to its National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit for the Marshall Plant on Lake Norman.

DEQ says the consent order issued in January “is expected to substantially reduce or eliminate the seeps” of coal-ash contamination into nearby lakes and streams. The SOC does not change the final closing date for the ponds. That remains the end of 2029. It also does not change Duke’s plan to close five of the six ponds by capping them in place rather than removing the ash from the ponds and burying it in lined landfills.

Catawba Riverkeeper Sam Perkins says the SOC is “an important admission that the seeps are a problem Duke has not been able to deal with.” But, he adds, the provisions “are inadequate to ensure that coal ash seepage stops."

The SOC provides penalties if Duke doesn't meet its requirements--including paying $4,000 per violation for existing seeps at the three sites, and up to $5,000 a day and $1 million per plant — for failing to meet the schedule specified in the order.

Most readers will recall that in 2014, the problem with coal ash at Duke's power plants became evident when a huge amount of the ash flowed into the Dan River near the Virginia-North Carolina border.

It was in 2015 that hundreds of families near Belmont got “Do Not Drink” notices telling them that their groundwater had been contaminated by toxic chemicals found in the leaking Duke Energy coal ash pond at the Allen Plant on Lake Wylie.

Duke supplied bottled water to the area residents, but later insisted that some of the contamination had nothing to do with the coal ash leak. Residents of the area have expressed the opinion that they've been ignored or forgotten by both Duke and the state.

At a recent hearing in Charlotte, Duke revealed plans for a rate increase to help pay for the cleanup--plans that were opposed by a huge crowd that gathered at the hearing.

The hearing Tuesday evening won't address rates nor complaints like those from the Belmont area residents. It will focus only on the SOC.

For those who are unable to attend the public hearing, written written comments may be submitted to Bob Sledge, NC Division of Water Resources, 1617 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, North Carolina 27699-1617 or by e-mail to But you'd better hurry! Wednesday (Feb. 14th) is the deadline for comments.


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