Science

Residents Water Polluted By Duke Energy’s Coal Ash Pits

Residents should not drink or cook with the water, which tests have shown to be dangerously contaminated. The state Department of Environment and Natural Resources stated that tests carried out on 152 wells located near Duke Energy’s dumps had failed state groundwater tests, writes Michael Biesecker for The Charlotte Observer.

Residents Water Polluted By Duke Energy's Coal Ash Pits

Dangerous levels of harmful chemicals detected

The authorities tested 163 wells in total, which means that 93% of the wells are dangerously contaminated. Further tests are expected to be carried out, but results so far have shown high levels of toxic heavy metals including lead, vanadium and hexavalent chromium.

In April the state claimed that 87 private wells situated near 8 different Duke plants had failed state groundwater tests. Last year’s spill into the Dan River meant that the state passed a law requiring tests to be undertaken on all drinking wells located with 1,000 feet of Duke Energy’s 32 coal ash dumps.

Coal ash is produced by power stations which burn the fossil fuel to produce electricity, and it contains a number of chemicals which are potentially harmful to humans. Among that number are those chemicals that are being detected in wells next to the coal ash dumps.

Duke Energy to plead guilty

Spokespeople for Duke Energy, the largest electricity company in the U.S., have previously claimed that the contamination could be the result of a natural phenomenon, but requests for comment on these latest findings were not returned. The company’s coal ash dumps contain over 150 million tons of waste product, spread around 32 dumps at 14 power plants in the state of North Carolina.

Duke Energy was charged on 9 criminal counts related to illegal pollution, which leaked from ash dumps at 5 of the plants for many years. The company has previously stated that it will plead guilty to the charges in court next week. The agreement will see the company pay $102 million in fines and restitution.

The aftermath of the Dan River spill also saw North Carolina lawmakers pass a law under which the company must move or cap its coal ash dumps by 2029.