News Feature | August 1, 2017

NC Fights Against Toxic Metal Contamination

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome
@sarmje

electricity reg new.jpg

North Carolina officials are debating how to respond to toxic-metal pollution found in wells near facilities run by Duke Energy, the nation’s largest electric company.

“Hundreds of homeowner wells near Duke’s plants, including two in Gaston and Rowan counties, were found with elevated levels of potentially toxic metals. The biggest concern was hexavalent chromium, which might cause cancer when found in drinking water,” The Charlotte Observer reported.

“Duke says the hexavalent chromium in the wells didn’t come from its stocks of coal ash stored at the plants. But state legislators last year ordered Duke to offer alternate water to its neighbors,” the report said.

Most of the affected residents will be connected to municipal water lines, the report said. There are nearly one thousand households affected by the problem.

The proposal to hook residents up to municipal lines “follows a new state law passed in response to concerns that metals found in ash might have contaminated private wells. The law requires Duke to offer to hook up neighbors who live within a half-mile of its basins to public water systems or to install filtration systems for their wells,” The Charlotte Observer previously reported.

North Carolina stakeholders are debating who will shoulder cost burdens in the aftermath of the toxic metal revelations.

“The nation's largest electric company wants regulators in North Carolina to force consumers to pay nearly $200 million a year to clean up the toxic byproducts of burning coal to generate power. That doesn't sit well with neighbors of the power plants who have been living on bottled water since toxic chemicals appeared in some of their wells,” the Associated Press reported.

Duke Energy raised eyebrows when it sought to raise electric bills in part to raise nearly $200 million to address coal ash cleanup costs.

“Coal ash contains arsenic, lead, mercury and other elements that may be hazardous in sufficient concentrations. Duke Energy denies that its basins contaminate the surrounding groundwater. But environmentalists and state regulators say those heavy metals could be seeping through the unlined bottoms of pits where liquefied coal ash has been stored for decades, into natural sources for wells where worrying concentrations have been documented,” the AP reported.

To read more about pollution issues visit Water Online’s Source Water Contamination Solutions Center.

Image credit: "Electricity pylons in a winter landscape," © 2007 allispossible.org.uk, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/