DENR Cites Duke Energy for Lack of Stormwater Permits at Five Coal Plants
State regulators issued notices of violation to five Duke Energy power plants late afternoon on Friday, February 28, 2014. The notices cited that Duke Energy had neither applied for nor obtained federally mandated stormwater permits for these five power plants.
The state discovered the missing permits during an ongoing investigation into Duke Energy’s coal ash ponds in North Carolina. While coal ash itself is not regulated directly by the EPA, stormwater is regulated through National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NDPES) permits. Six Duke Energy plants – the five cited Friday and the Dan River plant – do not have these permits.
These notices of violation bring the current total up to seven, including two previously issued to the Dan River Steam Station, at which a stormwater pipe burst carrying 39,000 tons of coal ash into the Dan River. In a press release Tuesday, March 4, 2014, DENR secretary John Skvarla said that the state is committed to ensuring that power plants comply with state and federal laws.
“We’re doing everything in our power to prevent environmental disasters like what we’ve seen at the Dan River,” he said. “We are committed to protecting public health and the natural resources of our state.”
Duke Energy’s official statement regarding the new notices of violation is that “We [Duke Energy] will respond to the state.”
The utility company has 30 days to respond to the newest notices and 15 days to respond to the two notices for the Dan River plant.
The five plants cited for NDPES permit violations are the Belews Creek Station in Rockingham County, the Lee Steam Electric Plant in Wayne County, the Roxboro Steam Electric Power Plant in Person County, the Sutton Steam Electric Plant in New Hanover County and the Cliffside Steam Station in Rutherford County.
At the same time, Duke Energy is dealing with a small stormwater pipe leak in the coal ash pond at the Cliffside Steam Station. A small leak in a steel outflow pipe allowed groundwater to infiltrate, creating 0.8 gallons of discharge per minute. Both Duke Energy and NC Division of Water Quality officials say that the discharge never reached the Broad River, the closest body of water to the plant.
Duke Energy spokeswoman Paige Sheehan said that Duke Energy acted quickly to fix the problem, catching the waste discharge and storing it until the leak is fixed.
“We followed the appropriate process to address it,” Sheehan said.
Duke Energy, however, is still monitoring the discharge water at the Cliffside Steam Station for dissolved metals and sodium, as well as pH and suspended solids.
- Daniel Lane
Daniel Lane covers science, medicine and the environment as a reporter/writer. He is currently pursuing a master's degree in medical and science journalism at UNC - Chapel Hill.
- Coal Ash Spill in the Dan River: DENR Still Testing for Coal Ash Metals (Feb. 6, 2014)
- UPDATE: Dan River Shows High but Decreasing Arsenic Levels as Duke Energy Seals Broken Pipe (Feb. 11, 2014)
- Dan River Update: February 20, 2014