News Feature | May 1, 2014

Duke Energy In Even More Trouble

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome


Duke Energy allegedly unleashed coal ash—on purpose—upstream from drinking water facilities. 

After spilling coal ash into the Dan River in February, the electric utility faces major legal battles for its role in one of the worst environmental disasters in U.S. history, which it has labelled "an accident." 

But Duke may also be responsible for deliberate coal ash discharges uncomfortably close to drinking water infrastructure. 

North Carolina regulators said this month that the electric utility "illegally pumped as much as 61 million gallons of coal-ash wastewater into a second river from September to [March]," the New York Times reported.

"Both the accidental spill and the deliberate releases occurred not far upstream from municipal drinking-water intakes," the report said. 

Tom Reeder, and official at the state's Department of Environment and Natural Resources, suggested the discharges seemed out of the norm. 

 “The state’s investigation revealed that the pumping activities ongoing at this plant far exceeded what would reasonably be considered routine maintenance,” he said in the report. 

Duke's response: "The company had identified through routine inspections that maintenance was needed on the 'risers,' the vertical pipes that transfer basin water to the permitted discharge system."

As of April, the company has spent $15 million on the coal ash spill, according to News & Observer

"Duke said total costs of the spill, which dumped up to 39,000 tons of ash into the river, are not expected to be 'material' to the company," the report said. 

The company is working to defend itself to government regulators.

"Duke Energy has launched a vigorous defense of its handling of the coal ash problems and four key directors in a filing with the federal Securities and Exchange Commission," WNCN reported

Here's what the company wrote: “What happened at the Dan River was an accident and it is one for which Duke has taken responsibility." 

“We immediately mobilized resources to address the situation – over a period of several days, hundreds of our people worked around the clock,” it continued.

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Image credit: "Morro Bay Harbor showing the three 'smoke stacks' of the local Dynegy (commonly known as “Duke”) power plant.," mikebaird © 2010, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license:

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