North Carolina residents, activists express consternation over lingering impacts of coal ash pollution

From the Alliance of Carolinians Together Against Coal Ash:

A constant struggle: Statewide alliance calls for more help for coal ash neighbors
Residents around Duke Energy power plants still using bottled water after two years

Two years after the state of North Carolina began issuing “Do Not Drink” letters to residents near Duke Energy coal ash dumps whose well water had been deemed unsafe to drink, residents are still subsisting on bottled water for their household drinking and cooking needs. While legislation last year required Duke to provide a permanent replacement source of water to well users within one-half mile of coal ash, the deadline for water replacement is still a year and a half away.

The daily burden of relying on bottled water is very difficult for some people. Linda Jamison, who lives in Person County near the Roxboro Steam Station says, “I am disabled, therefore having to lift and deal with the cumbersome water bottles has become unbearable. This has been a constant struggle in my day to day life for 2 years. I have stopped cooking regularly and living this way has completely changed my normal dietary habits.” 

Jamison adds, “The new administration and department heads in Raleigh need to reach out to the community members who continue to live on bottled water as we approach the two year mark of this life-changing inconvenience.”

We are all entitled to clean water,” says Jennifer Worrell in Goldsboro near the H.F. Lee plant. “And yet it took the Dan River spill to force Duke Energy to test our well water and find out it was not safe to drink. I have lived here since I was born, and no one ever knocked on the door — who knows what we were drinking all those years?”

Barbara Morales, a resident living near the Allen Steam Station, says “It’s a struggle to deal with the surplus of empty water bottles. I simply cannot afford to pay for trash/recycling pickup anymore. I am faced with the issue of what to do with all these empty plastic bottles. We have been dealing with all of this because of Duke Energy’s coal ash pollution in our water. I truly believe that Duke Energy’s pollution is still causing ongoing health issues in my home such as severe rashes and skin irritations!”

Roger Hollis, who lives near the Rogers Energy (Cliffside) plant, says “What we and communities all across the state have been experiencing for the past two years has not been fixed. Folks continue the struggle of everyday life on bottled water. Duke Energy has cut corners to handle coal ash cleanup and water replacement in the cheapest manner possible. The company should not recover coal ash related cost from its ratepayers!”

Further, communities have numerous concerns about the solutions that will be provided by Duke Energy. In plans for each site’s permanent water solution, Duke indicated it would evaluate costs to determine the cheapest solution for permanent water replacement, regardless of community preferences. Communities like Jamison’s will likely be forced to accept the cheaper alternative of filtration systems instead of having the option of public water lines. 

Duke Energy has also offered filtration systems to impacted well owners at its Arden plant who are separated from the plant by the French Broad River. Jeri Cruz-Segarra, one of these well owners, says, “I believe it was a responsible action by Duke Energy when they provided affected families with bottled water 2 years ago, but we are disappointed that they are only offering the cheapest permanent water replacement options when we have clearly expressed that municipal water hookups are our preferred permanent solution. My hope for Duke Energy is that they realize what an inconvenience and burden they have put on families in the Arden area and throughout North Carolina.”

Amy Brown, who lives near the Allen Steam Station, says “Nothing has changed for Duke Energy neighbors in the past two years. We continue to live on bottled water two years later. We have a law that requires Duke to provide us with permanent water, but yet we still haven’t seen one speck of dirt be moved. Will it be year three, four, or maybe even five years? Year two did bring us new leadership in the Governor’s office, but the real changes haven’t happened yet, so the neighbors across the state living on bottled water will continue to wait on solutions!”

Deborah Graham, a resident near the Buck Steam Station, says “Families across our state are still struggling with clean drinking water for two (2) full years now after receiving letters that our well water was contaminated. We continue to question our state about the mishandling of information from within the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) as to the health and safety of every citizen living near a toxic, unlined, leaking, cancer-filled coal ash pit dump in North Carolina.” 

Graham adds, “We will continue to educate ourselves, learn from our neighbors and stand united across our state and our nation for Clean Drinking Water.”

For more information on the A.C.T. Against Coal Ash coalition, visit actagainstcoalash.org.

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