Energy Report

N.C. Scientists and State Officials at Odds Over Coal Ash Safety

Date: October 7, 2016

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By Elizabeth E. Payne

August was an eventful month for the coal ash saga in North Carolina. Early in the month, the transcript of the sworn testimony of Dr. Ken Rudo, a toxicologist at the N.C. Department for Health and Human Services, became public.

Rudo raised concerns about language used by state environmental and health officials that downplayed the risks of last year’s “do not drink” warnings issued to hundreds of families living near Duke Energy coal ash impoundments.

Two top officials at state agencies responded with an open editorial defending their actions and criticizing “Rudo’s unprofessional approach to this important matter.”

Following the release of this editorial, Dr. Megan Davies resigned from her position as state epidemiologist at DHHS. “Upon reading the open editorial yesterday evening, I can only conclude that the Department’s leadership is fully aware that this document misinforms the public,” Davies wrote in her resignation letter. “I cannot work for a Department and an Administration that deliberately misleads the public.”

Meanwhile, the Department of Environmental Quality has proposed permits to allow Duke Energy to dispose of wastewater from its coal ash impoundments at its Dan River, Mayo and Roxboro sites directly into nearby waterways. Dan River was the site of the 2014 spill.
Public comments about the plans can be emailed to the agency at publiccomments@ncdenr.gov until Nov. 4.

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