On Nov. 15, Appalachian Voices’ North Carolina team attended a wastewater permit hearing for the Belews Creek Steam Station to help local community members push for stricter water pollution requirements.
The permit sets pollutant limits that Duke Energy must follow when draining contaminated water from its 250-acre coal ash pond into the Dan River. Duke announced in November that it intends to cap the coal ash in these impoundments in place rather than removing it. Syphoning off the water from the pond is a part of this process.
Local residents in attendance objected because the permit would not require limits for many toxic components of coal ash such as lead, mercury or arsenic, does not use the best available technology for treating the wastewater, and would only require monthly testing when the most concentrated wastewater is released. The permit would also legalize dangerous seeps responsible for groundwater contamination and allow Duke to use Little Belews Creek, which runs underneath the coal ash pond, as an effluent channel.
The residents stated that the permit does not protect the area’s drinking water, recreation and tourism. They also raised concerns because the hearing was scheduled during another important town meeting of interest for many impacted residents. Nevertheless, there were over 100 residents from across Stokes County in attendance.
As a result of the hearing and internal decisions, the state’s Department of Environmental Quality has revised the Belews Creek wastewater permit and will hold a hearing for the revised permit in December.