Monday, March 24, 2014

Duke Energy accused of mishandling more coal ash wastewater / Energy company caught pumping from toxic pond

North Carolina wastewater

A pump appears to be drawing water from a coal ash containment pond at Duke Energy's shuttered Cape Fear coal-burning plant in Moncure, N.C. The Waterkeeper Alliance, which took the photograph, accuses Duke of mishandling wastewater. (Rick Dove / Waterkeeper Alliance)

Duke Energy accused of mishandling more coal ash wastewater

MONCURE, N.C. - While poring over regulatory documents for Duke Energy coal ash ponds, environmentalists at the Waterkeeper Alliance grew suspicious of the way the giant utility was handling the toxic ash waste left over from burning coal.
They decided to send up a team in an aircraft to photograph Duke's shuttered Cape Fear coal-burning power plant and ash ponds, tucked into piney woods in this tiny community in central North Carolina.
The photos revealed what the Waterkeeper Alliance says is evidence that Duke, the nation's largest electric utility, is deliberately pumping toxic coal ash wastewater from the containment ponds into a canal that eventually feeds into the Cape Fear River, a source of drinking water for downstream cities.
In the photos, two portable pumps and hoses can be seen drawing water from a coal ash pond and dumping into the canal and into nearby woods. According to the environmental group, that is a criminal violation of the Clean Water Act and state laws.
"They were trying to hide it. It was just dumb luck that we caught them at it," said Peter Harrison, staff attorney for the alliance.
State regulators said the pumping could be illegal, and added that they were investigating the incident.
The allegations came as Duke and state regulators are under intense public and political pressure following the massive Feb. 2 Duke Energy coal ash spill that coated the Dan River with toxic coal ash sludge for at least 70 miles in North Carolina and Virginia. Hazardous heavy metals such as arsenic and lead were dumped into the river.
That spill, at a retired Duke Energy coal-fired plant in Eden, N.C., has led to allegations by environmental groups that state regulators have been soft on Duke and have ignored coal ash seepage for years from 14 Duke plants in North Carolina. It was the third-worst spill in U.S. history.
Federal prosecutors have announced a criminal investigation into the relationship between the state agency and Duke Energy. They have said they are seeking evidence of any money or gifts exchanging hands.
Officials at the state agency and at Duke Power have been issued subpoenas to appear before a grand jury this week.
In a statement, Duke Energy said the pumps were permitted by state regulators.
"The pumps in question are temporary installations used to lower the water level in those ash basins in order to perform maintenance on equipment in the basins," the statement said. "This maintenance activity is allowed under our permits and the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources is aware that this work is occurring."
A spokesman for the state agency, Drew Elliott, said in an email message: "Our inspectors noticed this pumping during an on-site inspection this week, and we are investigating the utility's actions. While routine maintenance is allowed under the permit, discharge of untreated wastewater could be a violation."
Elliott said he didn’t know whether the inspectors noticed the pumps before or after the Waterkeeper Alliance took aerial photos. The agency announced March 5 that, in its continuing response to the Dan River spill, it would conduct detailed inspections of all coal ash ponds at Duke's 14 plants, including the Moncure plant.,0,7688341.story#ixzz2wLrq5Fx8
Rachel Maddow 03/17/14

Energy company caught pumping from toxic pond
Rachel Maddow reports on the discovery by environmental activists of water being pumped from Duke Energy coal ash ponds into local waterways, and a new report that NC law has been changed to protect Duke’s coal ash pits.

The whole show is great, The Duke Energy starts at 20:23 minutes!