On March 10, 2015, the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (NC DENR) fined Duke Energy $25.1 million for groundwater violations at the Wilmington facility.
"This is a difficult step, but we cannot allow this level of regulatory overreach to go unchallenged," said Paul Newton, state president – North Carolina. "The actions by NC DENR send a chilling message to the North Carolina business community."
The company will file a formal appeal with the North Carolina Office of Administrative Hearings by April 9 demonstrating the specific instances where it believes NC DENR acted contrary to law, exceeded its authority or jurisdiction, and didn't follow proper rules and procedures.
"We take very seriously our responsibility to care for the communities around our facilities. That's why we monitored groundwater at the Sutton plant, routinely shared data with the state, and voluntarily acted to ensure local residents continue to have a high-quality water supply," said Newton. "Our work has been proactive and focused on the well-being of the community. We took accountability and addressed the issue at Sutton ourselves.
"We are as committed as ever to closing ash basins in ways that protect groundwater. We will continue to advance those plans while we sort through this separate legal issue," said Newton.
Caring for the Flemington community
In 2013, monitoring data indicated that groundwater near the Sutton plant was starting to move in the direction of the Flemington community, which gets its water from Cape Fear Public Utility Authority (CFPUA) wells near the plant.
The water supply is safe and continues to meet federal and state drinking water standards, with a margin of safety, and there is no health risk to the residents.
To ensure it remains that way, Duke Energy initiated a partnership with CFPUA to fund the extension of a municipal water line to the area, eliminating the need for public drinking wells. That project will be completed in less than two years, well before groundwater impacts would reach the public water supply.
Company awaits state approvals to begin ash basin closure
The company will close 32 ash basins across North Carolina, and has been working hard on plans to execute these closures. The work will begin at four facilities: Asheville, Dan River, Riverbend, and Sutton.
Ash can only be removed from the basins after the state issues new wastewater permits, for which the company applied in 2014. The first three of these permits are expected in early summer, with the rest of them following in late summer and fall.
"We are doing all we know to work constructively with NC DENR to meet North Carolina's aggressive deadlines to close ash basins," said Newton. "It is essential the state move quickly to support this important work."