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North Carolina Orders Better Water Testing Near Coal Ash Ponds

Duke Energy has been ordered to take greater measures to test groundwater near coal ash ponds. The order comes from the North Carolina Division of Water Quality (NCDWQ) in the wake of an October report that found 13 ash ponds owned by Duke and Progress Energy to be leaking toxic waste.

Appalachian Voices’ Riverkeeper Donna Lisenby analyzed Duke’s self-reported data and found 681 instances in which heavy metals had accumulated around the ponds in levels exceeding North Carolina groundwater standards. Currently, the state itself does not test any ash ponds. Duke, in an agreement with the US Environmental Protection Agency, has the authority to self-monitor its ponds.

The new testing wells will be placed farther away from the ash ponds, hopeful providing more accurate information about the spread of the toxic materials.

A recent editorial from the Winston-Salem Journal said that if the new tests showed contamination, “the state should continue to order expanded testing to find just how wide a problem we have. And environmental groups are to be commended for paying to test surface waters on their own.”

The editorial continued, “The bottom line is that the state cannot blithely accept the word of the utilities on the potential danger here. The testing must be done, and the extent of the problem must be determined. Then the public will know better how to proceed with future coal-ash storage.”

The permits for four Duke Energy-owned ponds will expire this year. When they are renewed, NCDAQ will require new testing wells to be placed farther from the ash pond boundaries. These wells will allow the companies to see how far from the ponds groundwater is being contaminated.

Currently, the state issued permits for the ash ponds require testing within a 250-500 foot boundary of the pond. However, the permits set no limit for amounts of heavy metals found during these tests. The new wells will be placed closer to the edge of the testing boundary, hopeful providing more accurate information about the spread of the contaminants

Read the entire Winston-Salem Journal editorial here.





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