By Kimber Ray
North Carolina officials are requiring Duke Energy to test 446 wells located near the utility’s coal ash ponds, which contain the waste left over from burning coal. As of July, the state health department had analyzed results from 327 of these wells, and sent “do not drink” notices to 301 homeowners whose water contains dangerous levels of heavy metals and other contaminants associated with coal ash, such as lead, vanadium and hexavalent chromium.
Duke Energy, recently fined $102 million for nine violations of the Clean Water Act at its coal ash ponds, denies responsibility for the drinking water contamination. The state is conducting tests to determine the cause.
The utility currently plans to excavate ash from 20 of its 32 unlined coal ash ponds. The 12 that remain unaddressed account for 70 percent of the company’s statewide ash deposits, according to the Charlotte Observer. Duke is considering plans to close these ponds by leaving the waste in place and installing an earthen cap on top.