Another coal ash spill – who’s watching?

In this photo released Friday, Sept. 21, 2018, by Duke Energy, Gray material that Duke Energy characterized as lightweight coal combustion byproducts could be seen Friday floating on the top of the lake, near Wilmington, N.C. The ash left over when coal is burned to generate electricity coal ash contains an array of components, including mercury, lead, arsenic and other toxic heavy metals. The inundated basin contains at the plant 400,000 cubic yards of ash.(Duke Energy)

Here we go again — another “accidental” breach of a coal ash storage pond possibly contaminating a flooding river, nearby land, and drinking water. This is not new to Rutherford County residents living near Rogers Energy Station; it’s also been a part of the state’s misfortunes for quite a few years. In February 2014, an Eden, North Carolina facility owned by Duke Energy spilled 39,000 tons of coal ash into the Dan River. The company later pled guilty to criminal negligence in their handling of coal ash at Eden and elsewhere.

Now the State is facing possible coal ash pond contamination of the Cape Fear River due to Hurricane Florence.

Rutherford County residents living near the Rogers Energy Station in Cliffside have dealt with contaminated well-water suspected as being caused from nearby coal ash pond storage. Duke Energy provided bottled drinking water to many nearby homes and will provide water lines from nearby drinking water companies as well. The Environmental Protection Agency found that living near ash ponds increases the risk of damage from cadmium, lead, and other toxic metals found in coal ash. A new Duke University-led study has revealed the presence of radioactive contaminants in coal ash from all three major U.S. coal-producing basins. … Radium isotopes and lead-210 occur naturally in coal as chemical by-products of its uranium and thorium content. (Sep 1, 2015)

Storing coal ash in low-lying areas and close to a river is not a good practice. The State of North Carolina, the people’s representatives, and our Environmental Protection Agency are charged with protecting the people of N.C. However, that has not been the experience in dealing with Duke Energy.

Former elected officials, Gov. Pat McCrory, our former House Rep. Mike Hager who was an engineer at the Rogers Energy Station/Cliffside Steam Station, along with appointed Secretary of State Sharon Decker (now Tryon Equestrian Center’s Chief Operating Officer) all have strong Duke Energy connections. Former Gov. Pat McCrory, a former longtime Duke Energy employee, effectively blocked legislation to require Duke to pay for a cleanup directly out of shareholder profits rather than passing the bill along to its customers.

Even our current NC Senator Ralph Hise went on record supporting Duke Energy in coal ash matters over the interest of his constituents.

The potential of coal ash contamination should have been foreseen in the lengthy coal ash clean-up schedule Duke has spread over years. Duke should have seen such a spill coming and prepared — and well before now. Hurricane season isn’t over.

Don’t stand by and let it happen again.