N.C. water-quality officials ask courts to address coal-ash issues at Asheville plant

Press release
from the NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources

State Water Quality officials request court support to address coal ash issues at Asheville Steam Station

RALEIGH – The state Division of Water Quality sought injunctive relief Friday from the state Superior Court requiring Progress Energy Carolinas, Inc. to address wastewater discharge permit compliance issues with the company’s coal-fired power plant in Asheville.

Monitoring of groundwater at the compliance boundary of the Asheville Steam Station Electric Generating Plant in Buncombe County revealed levels of chemical constituents that exceed requirements for groundwater protection. Also, state water quality inspectors observed seeps, or releases of liquids not authorized as part of the permitted discharges. These seeps occur at the toe drains of ash ponds and other parts of the facility. Most of the seeps flow toward the French Broad River. The department asserts that the unpermitted discharges are in violation of federal and state laws.

The lawsuit asks that the court require actions by the power company to include:
• a report to the Division of Water Quality’s director within 180 days that will assess the cause, significance and extent of the discharges.

• a report to the division’s director within 180 days that assesses the cause, significance and extent of thallium occurring at levels above groundwater standards. Thallium is released to the environment through coal-burning activities.

• assessment of other groundwater constituents that have been monitored as occurring above the state standards to determine a comparison to natural background levels, and determine the source and cause of contamination. The assessment also would be used to determine the existence of any imminent hazards to public health and safety, the extent of the contamination and factors influencing the movement, chemical and physical characteristics of the contaminants.

There is no current data that nearby drinking water wells have been affected by the coal ash ponds. The Division of Water Quality asserts that the power company should continue to collect and test samples from nearby private wells and report that data to the division.

The motion for injunctive relief is one of the tools available to the Division of Water Quality to pursue remedy from violations of the federal Clean Water Act and state regulations. The division will use the information provided to determine the next steps needed to address the contamination.

A link to a copy of the motion and supporting documents is available at http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/wq/hot-topics/ashevillesteamstadocs and in the Hot Topics section of the division’s home page, www.ncwaterquality.org.


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