NC Tells Coal Ash Neighbors Clean Water Is On The Way
State environmental officials are notifying owners of private wells near Duke Energy coal plants that they'll be getting new permanent water supplies or home water filters by late 2018.
Letters went out this week to about 1,000 households within a half-mile of most of Duke's coal ash storage ponds around the state. In June, lawmakers updated the state's Coal Ash Management Law to require that Duke provide alternate drinking water supplies.
The law passed, and was signed by Gov. Pat McCrory, despite disagreements over whether the wells are safe. While tests have found some contamination, Duke Energy says its own tests show coal ash isn’t the cause. And top state environmental officials say risks are minimal, and that the state acted too quickly last year when it told people their wells weren't safe.
Environmental Secretary Donald van der Vaart said in an interview two weeks ago that the new water supplies will give well owners long-term peace of mind.
"We believe the wells are safe, but the Coal Ash Management Act looks at the closure of these coal ash ponds over the course of from now... forever. So as an added measure of safety, because things can move, plumes can move, we're going to hook these folks up with water, and then we're going to close these ponds," van der Vaart said.
Duke will pay to connect homes to public water supplies. Of course that means a new monthly expense for homeowners. If they prefer, Duke will install home water filtration systems, a state Department of Environmental Quality spokesman said.
Duke must submit its plans for review by December, and complete the work by Oct. 15, 2018.
Duke also is in the midst of repairing dams around many of its coal ash ponds at 14 current and former coal plants across the state. Under the updated coal ash law, once state officials approve of that work, and permanent water supplies are in place, Duke will have the option of installing permanent covers and leaving coal ash where it is at as many as seven of the plants.
The state has set up a website where well owners can get the latest information. http://deq.nc.gov/news/hot-topics/coal-ash-nc/drinking-water-protection
Read the letter to well owners on the DEQ website, DEQ.NC.gov
See details about the water requirement in the 2016 update to the Coal Ash Management Act, at NCLeg.net