Front Porch Blog

“It’s just vitamins!” Industry confuses residents on coal ash safety

While Duke Energy sows seeds of confusion, CEO Lynn Good gets a raise.

Belmont, N.C., resident Amy Brown has rallied her neighbors to demand answers from Duke Energy and state officials on how her well water was contaminated. See video below.

Belmont, N.C., resident Amy Brown has rallied her neighbors to demand answers from Duke Energy and state officials on how her well water was contaminated. See video below.

Duke Energy and the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources continue to confound and confuse families that have the unfortunate luck of living in close proximity to the utility’s coal ash lagoons.

Well testing required by the state’s Coal Ash Management Act has shown unsafe levels of toxic heavy metals in hundreds of drinking water wells near coal ash ponds.

Residents began to receive letters in May from the state health department advising them to not drink or cook with their well water. Soon thereafter, Duke Energy began to offer those who received these notices a gallon of bottled water per day per person.

Beyond the notice and the insufficient supply of bottled water, Duke and the state have not done much to help these citizens process the information that their water is unsafe. In fact, Duke Energy hired experts to contradict the state’s public health officials.

So citizens and county health departments are stepping in to help residents air their frustrations and, hopefully, to receive some answers.

Belmont resident Amy Brown organized a recent community meeting and invited Duke Energy representatives to speak. Part of her community is surrounded by coal ash ponds at Duke’s G.G. Allen plant. The water notice Brown and her neighbors received recommends not using the water for drinking and cooking, but she asks, “How safe would you feel bathing your 2-year-old child in water that you’re being told is unsafe to ingest?”

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At the meeting, Duke Energy was met with anger and tough questions from residents who are understandably afraid and concerned. Although Duke representatives agreed to stay until the end of the meeting to answer questions, they quickly left after their presentation, about 30 minutes before the meeting ended.

Another meeting, held in Salisbury, was hosted by the Rowan County Health Department. While the meeting was less contentious, it left residents more confused than assured.

Duke Energy brought coal ash “expert” Lisa Bradley along with them to the Salisbury meeting. Bradley, a toxicologist on the executive committee of the American Coal Ash Association, is known for trying to convince the public that coal ash is safe enough to feed your kids for breakfast.

Bradley insisted that metals like vanadium and chromium are minerals that you can get at your local vitamin shop and therefore are no cause for concern. Bradley’s rhetoric glosses over the fact that chromium changes form easily, sometimes into hexavalent chromium, a carcinogenic form of the substance that is often a by-product of industrial processes.

Ken Rudo, the toxicologist from the Department of Health and Human Services, who has been personally calling residents to make sure they heed the “do not drink” notice, called baloney out on Bradley’s presentation as seen in the following video clip (thanks to Waterkeeper Alliance for the footage).

In the background of all this, Duke Energy CEO Lynn Good got a raise of $50,000 for, as some of the business coverage framed it, having “confronted a coal ash spill” as if Duke Energy was a victim versus the perpetrator of the spill.

Will Good use the the money to buy some hexavalent chromium and vanadium supplements? Or might she donate that money to the residents whose lives Duke Energy has disrupted so they get more than the measly gallon of water a day the company is currently providing?

Not only do these residents need more clean water; they need clear answers on the future of their water supply and the effect drinking from it may have had on their family’s health.

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With Colombian roots, a Philadelphia, Pa.-childhood, and more than a decade in Florida before joining Appalachian Voices, Sandra served as AV's North Carolina campaign coordinator and driving force behind the Red, White & Water campaign from 2007 to 2013.


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2 COMMENTS
  1. Hale davis says:

    i would have told that lady who said it was ok to ingest to eat a bowl or two of it,this is ridiculous and a growing concern everywhere,it needs to stop and needs to stop now….

  2. Ron Sage says:

    I was totally blown away, and thinking ‘Where is an Aaron Brockovich’ when you need one. I too was thinking about offering the ‘Toxicologist’ a glass of water and make here drink it in front of the crowd. Bring in your water samples to show off. Bring in your ground water reports. This is not just a ‘city issue’, it is the Eastern half of the State. The Catawba River runs by this plant and into South Carolina (very near there). Feeds into Lake Norman outside of Charlotte. This is a bigger issue than the small town of Belmont. Just sad on Duke Energies part.

1 Pings/Trackbacks for "“It’s just vitamins!” Industry confuses residents on coal ash safety"
  1. […] water contaminants publicly. In a video of a public meeting on well water contaminants in Salisbury and posted online by the environmental group Appalachian Voices, Rudo said: “It’s a low risk but it’s higher what we in public health consider to be safe. […]

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