The Daily Tar Heel

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Thursday May 19th

Duke Energy to pay $6 million for Dan River coal ash spill

According to the settlement, Duke Energy will pay $5,983,750 for spilling almost 40,000 tons of waste into the Dan River in 2014. The utility company will also pay $16,250 for five other unauthorized discharges of wastewater that came after the 2014 spill.

In a statement released after the settlement, Duke Energy said they are accountable for what happened.

“This agreement is another important step in bringing the accident and its aftermath to a close as we continue working to safely close all ash basins in ways that protect people, the environment and customer pocketbooks,” the statement said.

Dan Crawford, director of governmental relations at the North Carolina League of Conservation Voters, said he is not satisfied with how the situation was handled.

“It’s good to be a multi-billion dollar company in North Carolina because you get to call your own shots,” he said.

“The DEQ has protected polluters more than they have the people, and people need to be paying attention to that.”

Crawford said the public should be concerned with the coal ash ponds at other Duke Energy plants.

“The Dan River site will be cleaned up,” he said. “But then there’s a lot of options up in the air for the remaining sites, and I think that’s what people need to keep their eye on to make sure they’re clean.”

Crawford said one option is to drain and cap the coal ash ponds, which could lead to more contamination because some waste would be left in the ground.

Catawba Riverkeeper Sam Perkins said the Dan River spill’s environmental effects can still be seen.

“You can still go to the Dan River and you can find ash — it’s easy to find, you can see it miles downstream still,” he said.

Duke Energy’s statement said the Dan River is thriving.

Perkins said he was disappointed with the settlement.

“What would be fair is to require them to clean up their mess,” he said. “Less than 7 percent of what was spilled has actually been cleaned up, so that will continue to be churned up and moved downriver.”

Perkins said companies should be forced to change their behavior instead of paying fines for violating environmental standards.

According to a statement released by N.C. DEQ, Duke Energy must close the coal ash ponds at the Dan River site by Aug. 2019 and close all of its coal ash ponds by 2029.

Perkins said North Carolina was lucky the spill happened at the Dan River plant since the surrounding areas are not densely populated. He said he’s concerned about other Duke Energy sites.

“All 14 of these sites around the state have the same problem,” he said. “They’re on waterways, they’re unlined, they’re leaking — they’re getting old and starting to fall apart.”



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