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Duke Settles Suit Over Water Quality Near Sutton Plant

Duke Energy
Environmental groups said coal ash was polluting water near the Sutton plant in Wilmington.

Duke Energy has agreed to pay at least $1 million to settle a federal lawsuit by environmental groups over water pollution near a now-retired coal-fired power plant in Wilmington. 

The settlement ends the suit filed in 2013 by Cape Fear River Watch, the Sierra Club and the Waterkeeper Alliance. They accused Duke of violating the federal Clean Water Act because toxic heavy metals and other pollutants from coal ash were flowing into Sutton Lake near the plant.

Under the deal, Duke will put $1 million into a fund to improve water quality and conserve land along the lower Cape Fear River. Duke also will pay up to $250,000 more, if conservation groups match the sum.

The company already is required by state law and court order to remove the coal ash and move it to new, lined landfills. But the cleanup didn’t include Sutton Lake, which was created as a cooling pond and has become a popular fishing spot.

The suit was filed by the Southern Environmental Law Center. A spokesman said the deal would benefit water quality, the environment and communities along the river for years to come.  

Duke Energy said in a statement that fish are thriving and water meets state standards in both the lake and Cape Fear River, but Duke is committed to closing ash basins across the state in ways that protect the environment and keep down costs.


Duke Energy web page on the Sutton plant, https://www.duke-energy.com/sutton

Nov. 23, 2106, SouthernEnvironment.org, "SELC, N.C. conservation groups reach settlement on coal ash pollution near Wilmington"

David Boraks is a veteran journalist who covers climate change for WFAE. See more at www.wfae.org/climate-news. He also has covered housing and homelessness, energy and the environment, transportation and business.