Duke Energy has given state environmental officials details of how it plans to provide safe, permanent water supplies to people who live near the company's coal ash dumps. The filings, for all but two plants, comply with a state law requiring the plans by Dec. 15.
After tests of private wells found contamination in 2015, state health officials told neighbors of Duke's coal-burning power plants to stop drinking their water. Duke says it's not responsible, and state officials later sparked a controversy by rescinding the warning. But a state law governing coal ash cleanups requires Duke to provide safe water supplies - either a connection to a public water system and/or home water filters.
The plans announced Wednesday affect households within a half mile of coal ash basins near 10 plants, including the Allen plant in Gaston County, Marshall Steam Station on Lake Norman and the Buck plant in Salisbury, as well as plants in Chatham, Wayne, Robeson and Rutherford counties. Neighbors there would have the option of connecting to a water system or getting water filters, or both.
- At the Allen plant in Belmont, Duke's plans include private well owners, several businesses and customers of Aqua North Carolina, which serves 77 households from three community wells. Altogether, 272 households are eligible. Households may connect to the City of Belmont water system if they choose.
- 127 households are eligible near the Marshall Steam Station in Catawba County. The plan includes six businesses, one industrial plant and two schools/churches. Most will connect to the City of Hickory water supply, or have the option of a filtration system.
- A total of 189 households as well as several schools and churches near the Buck plant in Salisbury are eligible. Most will have the option of connecting to the Salisbury Rowan Utilities system, Duke says.
Duke will install home water filters for neighbors of three plants in Stokes and Person counties. The company says it will file plans for two other sites - Asheville and Wilmington - by the Dec. 15 deadline.
The remaining two of Duke's 14 current and former North Carolina coal plants aren't affected. Neighbors of the Dan River plant in Eden and the Riverbend plant in Mt. Holly are already served by public water systems, Duke said.
Connecting to a public water supply would bring something homeowners haven't seen before: a monthly water bill. Mike Hughes, Duke's vice president for community relations in North Carolina, said Duke is working on a plan to address that and other concerns, with some kind of "financial supplement."
"Neighbors have told us they worry about their property values or the burden of new water bills, and we’re exploring ways to address that as we provide permanent water solutions in these communities," he said in a statement.
Hughes said in an interview that Duke hopes to get state approval for the plans in early 2017. Duke has until October 2018 to complete filter installations or water system connections.
The company estimates the plans announced so far will cost about $21 million, of which $18.9 million will go to install water system connections. A spokeswoman says the figures don't include costs for the Asheville and Sutton plants, to be announced later, or ongoing costs for maintaining water filtration systems. They also don't include any future compensation payments.
Read Duke Energy's press release announcing the plans.
Find out specific plans for each Duke plant in N.C., https://www.duke-energy.com/WaterPlans