Take Action: Tell Duke Energy to Stop Polluting the Broad River with Coal Ash!

Take Action: Tell Duke Energy to Stop Polluting the Broad River with Coal Ash!

Take Action: Tell Duke Energy to Stop Polluting the Broad River with Coal Ash!

Oct. 20, 2017

We’re building a movement to hold Duke Energy accountable for their coal ash pollution. Last Saturday, Oct. 14, community members joined the Broad River Alliance and three other MountainTrue Riverkeepers for a paddle protest in front of Duke’s power plant in Cliffside, NC. Sign our petition below to keep the heat on and show Duke that North Carolina’s citizens will not tolerate their toxic pollution of our waterways.


Western North Carolina is blessed with more than 1.5 million acres of public land, including Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway and several state-owned parks, forests and natural areas. These public lands support the headwaters of our rivers, beautiful mountain vistas, one of the most diverse temperate forests on the planet, and a thriving economy in tourism, crafts and recreation.
During its 30-year history, WNCA (now MountainTrue) has twice prevented logging in the Asheville Watershed, first in 1990 and again in 2004. Eventually the City of Asheville placed a conservation easement over 17,356 acres of the watershed.

Paddle With Us Oct. 14 to Stand Up to Duke Energy at Cliffside

Paddle With Us Oct. 14 to Stand Up to Duke Energy at Cliffside

 

While the ash from Duke’s coal-burning plant in Asheville is being cleaned up, neighbors about an hour down the road have not been so lucky. Residents in Rutherford and Cleveland counties live near Duke’s Cliffside Power Plant (James E. Roger’s Energy Complex), which continues to pollute the Broad River with toxic heavy metals including mercury, arsenic and lead. Recent water testing by MountainTrue confirms this finding, but Duke Energy has refused to clean up their toxic mess.

Toxic coal ash in any of Western North Carolina’s waterways is a threat to all of us. Join MountainTrue and the Broad River Alliance on Oct. 14 to tell Duke Energy we won’t accept their life-threatening pollution anywhere – even in more rural communities that often lack media coverage.
We will paddle a short section of the Broad River, stopping in front of the power plant for a photo with a banner that reads,“Protect Our Water, Move Your Ash!” You can bring your own boat, or borrow one from MountainTrue if we are notified in advance. Bring your own water and a snack.

Meet us at 11 am at the Old Cliffside Mill on Hwy 221-A, beside the bridge over the Second Broad. (We will have signs on the road directing you.) We’ll take out at Lake Hauser by 1 pm.

RSVP to the protest on Eventbrite here, or to the Facebook event page here.

Questions? Email us at eliza@mountaintrue.org.


Western North Carolina is blessed with more than 1.5 million acres of public land, including Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway and several state-owned parks, forests and natural areas. These public lands support the headwaters of our rivers, beautiful mountain vistas, one of the most diverse temperate forests on the planet, and a thriving economy in tourism, crafts and recreation.
During its 30-year history, WNCA (now MountainTrue) has twice prevented logging in the Asheville Watershed, first in 1990 and again in 2004. Eventually the City of Asheville placed a conservation easement over 17,356 acres of the watershed.

Turnout for 30th Annual Big Sweep Nearly Quadruples, Volunteers Clean Up 50 miles in WNC

Turnout for 30th Annual Big Sweep Nearly Quadruples, Volunteers Clean Up 50 miles in WNC

Turnout for 30th Annual Big Sweep Nearly Quadruples, Cleans 50 miles in WNC

Collaboration with Community Partners and Expanded Riverkeeper Programs Made this our Biggest Big Sweep Yet

Sept. 26 2017

 

Community members and students turned out to carry 24 bags of trash out of the Guy Ford section of the Watauga River. In total, Big Sweep participants removed 7,810 pounds of trash from Western North Carolina’s waterways.

 

On September 9, more than 253 people from all walks of life turned out to remove more than 7,810 pounds of trash — 3.9 tons! — from Western North Carolina’s waterways as part of our 30th annual NC Big Sweep. Through a series of river and roadside cleanups in Buncombe, Henderson, Transylvania, and Watauga counties, Mountaintrue joined key partners Asheville Greenworks, the Waterkeeper Alliance and AmeriCorps Project Conserve to clean 50 miles of rivers and streams.

Gray Jernigan, MountainTrue’s Green Riverkeeper and Southern Regional Director, confirmed that the Big Sweep’s attendance this year “almost quadrupled” compared to last year. Why was the event such a success? “Thanks to the partnership and coordination with other great local organizations and businesses,” Gray says. “We’ve also recently expanded our Riverkeeper programs to include the Green and Broad Rivers, which builds our geographic reach and volunteer engagement in those areas.”

As a 30th annual event, Big Sweep falls into a long-standing tradition of volunteers in North Carolina cleaning up waterways in their communities. The event could not have happened without Asheville Greenworks, a key leader in the Big Sweep effort, or our Big Sweep sponsors, which included Asheville Outdoor Center, Griffin Waste Services, Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., Henderson County and French Broad Outfitters.

Fifteen members of the Hendersonville Rotary Club showed up in full force for the event, and were joined by State Senator Chuck Edwards in cleaning up Mud Creek.
“As a volunteer team leader, I find it to be really satisfying work,” said Don Huneycutt, the Big Sweep Team Captain for the Hendersonville Rotary Club. “ It takes a team and some hard work , but when you’re done, you can see that you made a real difference.”

 

A volunteer with the Hendersonville Rotary Club removes a tire from Mud Creek. 

 

Our waterways attract quite the collection of bizarre trash. State Senator Chuck Edwards finds a toy ambulance in Mud Creek. 

 

The Hendersonville Rotary Club with collected trash from Mud Creek. State Senator Chuck Edwards (front row, second from right) joined the group, wearing a MountainTrue hat.

 

The Broad River Alliance named the event their “Sarah Sweep” for the second year in a row in memory of Sarah Spencer, an active volunteer who was 26-years-old when she was killed in a car accident in 2016. The event served Sarah’s memory proud, as 22 volunteers turned out to remove 1400 pounds of trash – including 32 tires! – along five miles of the First Broad River.

The French Broad Riverkeeper’s team was based out of Westfeldt River Park, and mainly received volunteers from Asheville Greenworks and AmeriCorps Project Conserve on the French Broad in Transylvania County. (add numbers from cleanup) When the work was done, the volunteers enjoyed an after party at Westfeldt River Park sponsored by Sierra Nevada Brewing Co.

And in the High Country, a team of 20 volunteers cleaned up the Guy Ford section of the Watauga River, which was recently donated to Watauga County by the Blue Ridge Conservancy for recreation. “Thank you to all our amazing volunteers who made the 30th Annual Big Sweep a success,” said Andy Hill, Watauga Riverkeeper and MountainTrue’s High Country Regional Director. “[And] major appreciation to Edgar Peck and the Blue Ridge Conservancy for making Guy Ford Access another place for people to enjoy the Watauga River.” The cleanup crews, consisting mainly of community members and students, filled 24 bags of trash, including a tent, a mattress and a rusty trash can.

Volunteers in all of our regions noticed an abundance of a few particular pieces of trash: plastic bottles and tires. Plastic bottles remain a huge threat to our waterways, and the Big Sweep was a reminder to volunteers and community partners that litter on our streets often ends up in our streams and rivers as stormwater runoff. By tackling the problem at the source, efforts to reduce littering and careless garbage disposal can greatly reduce the burdens on our waterways each year.

Big Sweep participants also collected at least 115 tires this year, and some groups even had designated Tire Teams to remove them. Tires often end up in waterways because they are seen as too difficult or expensive to dispose of properly. Dumped in streams, they become environmental hazards. The best way to recycle tires is through your local county recycling program. Henderson and Transylvania counties will dispose of five tires for free per household, per year; Buncombe County accepts 10. For other items that are difficult to recycle, from packing peanuts, to printer cartridges, to dog crates, take note of Asheville Greenworks’ Hard-2-Recycle events here.

Thank you to all of our volunteers, community partners, and sponsors that made the Big Sweep happen this year. By helping us fund our Green, Broad, French Broad and Watauga Riverkeeper programs, you’re helping to remove thousands of pounds of trash from our waterways every year. We hope you’ll join us in your gloves and rain boots next year to make the next Big Sweep an even bigger success.

 

AmeriCorps Project Conserve Members clean up the French Broad River in kayaks. 


Western North Carolina is blessed with more than 1.5 million acres of public land, including Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway and several state-owned parks, forests and natural areas. These public lands support the headwaters of our rivers, beautiful mountain vistas, one of the most diverse temperate forests on the planet, and a thriving economy in tourism, crafts and recreation.
During its 30-year history, WNCA (now MountainTrue) has twice prevented logging in the Asheville Watershed, first in 1990 and again in 2004. Eventually the City of Asheville placed a conservation easement over 17,356 acres of the watershed.

Harvey’s Toxic Wake

Harvey’s Toxic Wake

 

Harvey’s Toxic Wake

Hurricane Harvey had another dangerous effect: flooded superfund sites. French Broad Riverkeeper Hartwell Carson reports back from Houston.

September 15, 2017

 

French Broad Riverkeeper Hartwell Carson and Bayou City Waterkeeper Bruce Bodson (pictured) survey water quality on the Green Bayou in Houston, TX shortly after Hurricane Harvey. Houston is home to many toxic and industrial sites, and the hurricane caused widespread chemical and wastewater leaks.

 

This tiny jon boat is no match for the waves crashing over its bow. As Tonya and I ponder how much sewage might be in the water, which is now dripping from our faces and clothes, Bruce Bodson, the Bayou City Waterkeeper, says, “I don’t think the sewage should be your main worry — I think dioxins are more common here.”

Bruce and I, alongside Savannah Riverkeeper Tonya Bonitatibus, are a last-minute crew assembled by the Waterkeeper Alliance to respond to the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. We’re in Houston to assess the hurricane’s impact on the many oil, gas, chemical and industrial sites in the region — after receiving over 50 inches of rain in many areas, there is real concern about stormwater runoff, overflowing wastewater plants, and spills and leaks from the massive oil and gas facilities near Houston’s waterways.

The dichotomy of the storm is quickly evident. Our downtown accommodations show no sign of Harvey’s impacts, but as I walk a few blocks to assess the Buffalo Bayou, I see workers hosing off the side of a building. They show me a spot on the wall about 35 feet above the water, where the floodwaters reached during the storm. We witness neighborhoods completely devastated by the flooding, while homeowners elsewhere are planting flowers and mowing their lawns like nothing ever happened. Bruce explains that this storm was “more of a rain event than a wind event, and it was like a lot of floods: you’re either in it or you’re not.”

 

The Buffalo Bayou overflows in downtown Houston following Hurricane Harvey. Many areas in Houston received over 50 inches of rain during the storm. 

 

Being “in it” not only meant that your home had flooded and belongings had been destroyed. Too often, it meant the floodwaters brought a toxic stew into your neighborhood and your house.

On one of our monitoring trips, we examined the area’s many superfund sites. Houston has a long history of heavy industry and pollution, and therefore is home to some of the most toxic sites in the country. One of those sites is the French LTD. It sits close to the San Jacinto River, directly next to a low-income mobile home community that was completely devastated by the floodwaters. Trailers there are overturned and cars are underwater. There is no indication that anyone has been here to inspect the toxic water pollution caused by the storm.

 

This mobile home community next to French Ltd., a superfund site, was devastated by flooding and toxic leaks during Hurricane Harvey. 

 

The pollution is ironically obvious, as it sits directly in front of a fence with a sign warning that the area beyond it is a hazardous site. A black, oily ditch flows directly into the neighboring community. As I walk through to inspect the damage, some of the residents are piling their flood-soaked belongings on top of giant debris piles. Just down the road from there, a crew in hazardous waste removal suits are using weed eaters to remove the oily grass and hanging a long plastic covering over the fence. I wonder what they’re trying to hide. I hold my phone over the fence to take pictures, which reveal trees and bushes coated in a thick oily sheen at least five feet high. I wonder: Has anyone warned the neighboring residents of the toxic threat the floodwaters pose to their health?

 

Left: The “No Trespassing” sign in front of French Ltd., a superfund site, warns of toxic waste beyond it. Right: The Waterkeepers discovered a fence outside of Deep Down Inc., an industrial site that saw a large amount of oil wash out of its waste pits during Hurricane Harvey.

Being a Waterkeeper means being a watchdog for your waterway. That can mean monitoring facilities from the air, checking their discharge permits, and getting drenched in sewage in order to make sure industries supported by oil and gas aren’t polluting the area’s waterways. That job is made much more difficult in Houston, because Homeland Security prevents access by water to most of these superfund and industrial sites.

Bruce and I paddle down Green’s Bayou in sea kayaks in an attempt to lay eyes on the impact of the storm from the river. As we ease our way down the Bayou towards the heart of the oil and gas facilities, Bruce says it won’t be long before we get stopped. And we do get stopped — not by the police, but by giant barges tied together to block access to the downstream facilities. We take in toxic smell after toxic smell, some so strong that I get a headache. Bruce calls out the names of these toxic substances as if we are out birdwatching. The smell becomes overpowering as we paddle by Arkema, the same company whose toxic chemicals exploded in another area of Houston. “We probably should have brought our respirators,” Bruce says casually. “This smell could kill you if it were a bit stronger.”

Bruce’s calm response to potentially being killed by toxic chemicals while kayaking comes from a career spent around the oil and gas industry. A career that has seen a lifetime’s worth of oil and gas pollution, lakes of chemicals sunken into the ground, and chemical explosions.

The risk of dying from a toxic chemical exposure is not something I am accustomed to when I go paddling. But in Houston — ground zero for the oil and gas industry — it is a way of life. It’s illegal for these chemicals to leave the property, Bruce says, but there isn’t much incentive to stand up to the multi-billion dollar oil and gas giants like ExxonMobil and BP.

When our boat patrol is finished, we drive through a residential neighborhood bordering the ExxonMobil refinery. Many of these people live and breathe the toxic byproducts of our country’s fossil fuel addiction every day. The scenes we pass of kids riding bikes and playing on swing sets would be totally normal, if it weren’t for the backdrop of methane flares and toxic air emissions just over their heads.

“During Harvey, the released toxins were so intense that a ‘shelter in place warning’ was issued for this neighborhood in Baytown,” Bruce explains. “They even advised against using air conditioners, to prevent toxic chemicals from being drawn into homes.” I fully believe this, because my skin has started to burn from the water that splashed all over us during the boat patrol.

“This looks like the future scene from the Terminator movies, where the robots have destroyed the Earth,” I tell Bruce, only half-kidding.

For a moment, I think that maybe this area should remain a sacrifice zone, so the rest of the country can burn oil and gas. But when I look back at the blue herons taking off from the discharge of oil refineries, and see kids riding bikes under the shadows of methane flares, I remember that this fight to protect the waterways is worth fighting, and that it is exactly what Waterkeepers do best.

Waterkeepers take on David versus Goliath fights every day. This is a fight for the future — not only for the future of the people and waterways around Houston, but for the future of our planet. The oil and gas industries are strangling our ability to develop a clean energy future. A future where people can relax in their yards without fear of toxic pollution, paddle and swim in their waterways, and use renewable energy that doesn’t contribute to climate change. This is a battle worth fighting, and a battle the Bayou City Waterkeeper and Waterkeeper Alliance intend to win.

 

Wastewater from a Houston wastewater treatment plant flows into the Green Bayou. Waterkeepers monitored and documented the pollution to fight for a clean water future. 


Western North Carolina is blessed with more than 1.5 million acres of public land, including Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway and several state-owned parks, forests and natural areas. These public lands support the headwaters of our rivers, beautiful mountain vistas, one of the most diverse temperate forests on the planet, and a thriving economy in tourism, crafts and recreation.
During its 30-year history, WNCA (now MountainTrue) has twice prevented logging in the Asheville Watershed, first in 1990 and again in 2004. Eventually the City of Asheville placed a conservation easement over 17,356 acres of the watershed.

Sampling Shows Groundwater Pollution to the Broad River

Sampling Shows Groundwater Pollution to the Broad River

 

Sampling Shows Groundwater Pollution to the Broad River

 

 

For Immediate Release:

September 14, 2017

Mooresboro, N.C. — Recent sampling by the Broad Riverkeeper and MountainTrue confirms that Duke Energy is continuing to pollute groundwater and surface water with toxic heavy metals at its coal-fired power plant near Cliffside, N.C.. The team used a sampling method to tap into shallow groundwater near the edge of the Broad River at three locations: upstream and across the river from the Duke Energy plant (used as a “background” location for sampling purposes), next to an inactive coal ash pit and next to the active coal ash pit.

The results of an independent laboratory analysis of the samples show significant increases in the levels of toxic heavy metals when compared to the cross-river background samples, including chromium levels more than 40 times higher than background and lead levels 30 times higher than background.

Broad Riverkeeper David Caldwell explains, “despite the significant threat of coal ash to the Broad River and the surrounding community, Duke Energy still refuses to clean up their coal ash mess. Duke has ample capacity in the onsite, lined landfill to store this ash, but refuses to spend the money to protect our community by digging up the ash and moving it.”

To bring attention to Duke Energy’s choice to put its profits over the health of waterways, MountainTrue and the Broad Riverkeeper will be gathering community members at the Cliffside Power Plant (James E. Roger’s Energy Complex) on October 14 in protest. The protesters will paddle a section of the Broad River with a banner reading, “Protect Our Water, Move Your Ash!”

To join the protest, click here:

http://bit.ly/PaddleProtest

To sign MountainTrue’s petition for a full cleanup, click here:

http://www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/383/917/194/

The sampling shows an overall trend of significant increases in heavy metal concentration when compared to background samples. Results show:  

  • Chromium 25 times higher than background and two times higher than the groundwater standard at the inactive basin.  Chromium  42 times higher than background and three times higher than the groundwater standard at the active basin.
  • Lead 20 times higher than background at inactive basin and 30 times higher than background at active basin (exceeding GW standard).
  • Boron was not present in background, but was found in samples taken near the inactive and active ash basins.  
  • Calcium seven times higher than background at active basin.
  • Aluminum 37 times higher than background at active basin.
  • Arsenic twice as high as background at active basin.
  • Vanadium 38 times higher than background at the active basin.

Media Contacts:

Karim Olaechea
Communications Director, MountainTrue
E: karim@mountiantrue.org; C: 415.535.9004

David Caldwell
Coordinator, Broad River Alliance – A Waterkeeper Alliance Affiliate
E: broadriveralliance@gmail.com C: 704.300.5069

About MountainTrue

MountainTrue fosters and empowers communities throughout the region and engages in policy and project advocacy, outreach and education, and on-the-ground projects. To achieve our goals, MountainTrue focuses on a core set of issues across 23 counties of Western North Carolina: sensible land use, restoring public forests, protecting water quality and promoting clean energy – all of which have a high impact on the environmental health and long-term prosperity of our residents. MountainTrue is the home of the French Broad Riverkeeper, the Green Riverkeeper, the Watauga Riverkeeper and the Broad River Alliance, a Waterkeeper Affiliate working to promote fishable, swimmable, drinkable waters in the Broad River Basin. For more information: mountaintrue.org

 

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Western North Carolina is blessed with more than 1.5 million acres of public land, including Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway and several state-owned parks, forests and natural areas. These public lands support the headwaters of our rivers, beautiful mountain vistas, one of the most diverse temperate forests on the planet, and a thriving economy in tourism, crafts and recreation.
During its 30-year history, WNCA (now MountainTrue) has twice prevented logging in the Asheville Watershed, first in 1990 and again in 2004. Eventually the City of Asheville placed a conservation easement over 17,356 acres of the watershed.

Consumers and Advocates Ask NC Utilities Commission to Reject Duke’s Half-Billion Dollar Rate Hike

Consumers and Advocates Ask NC Utilities Commission to Reject Duke’s Half-Billion Dollar Rate Hike

 

Consumers and Advocates Ask NC Utilities Commission to Reject Duke’s Half-Billion Dollar Rate Hike

 

For Immediate Release:

September 14, 2017

Asheville — Duke Energy customers and environmental, consumer and welfare advocates are calling on the North Carolina Utilities Commission to reject a proposal by Duke Energy to make consumers pay for the company’s coal ash cleanup through higher bills and fees. Duke customers can make their opposition known at a public hearing of the Utilities Commission on Wednesday, September 27 at 7 p.m. at the Buncombe County Courthouse.

Duke Energy’s proposal would amount to a $477.5 million increase in the amount that Duke can collect from its ratepayers each year. The typical residential customer would see the fixed charge that they pay every month, regardless of the amount of energy that they use, nearly double from $11.13 to $19.50. Their electric rates would increase on average by 16.7%, approximately $18 more per month.

Customers and advocates oppose the plan because it puts the entire burden for costs related to the cleanup of toxic coal ash on the customer. Of the nearly half-billion dollar increase that Duke is requesting of the Commission, $311 million is for recovery for costs spent excavating coal ash at its Asheville, Mayo, Roxboro, Cape Fear, Lee, Robinson, Sutton and Weatherspoon facilities in 2015 and 2016. Duke estimates that its coal ash cleanup costs at those plants will total more than $2.5 billion over the next 40 years.

Opponents of the rate hike are confident that they are on solid legal ground in asking for the Utilities Commission to reject the rate hike and fee increase. North Carolina law only allows for a utility’s cost to be paid by customers if they are reasonable and prudent. Duke Energy’s own insurance providers have refused to cover costs associated with Duke’s coal ash liabilities, citing Duke’s failure “to take reasonable measures to avoid and/or mitigate” the damages resulting from coal ash disposal. In 2015, Duke Energy pled guilty to violating environmental laws related to coal ash pollution from five of its North Carolina power plants.

“Coal ash has resulted in the contamination of lakes, rivers and drinking water supplies,” explains Hartwell Carson, the French Broad Riverkeeper at MountainTrue, a western North Carolina nonprofit that led the fight for cleaner energy and the cleanup of Duke’s coal ash pits. “North Carolina residents have already paid a heavy price, and now Duke Energy wants to bill us for their negligence and mismanagement, too.”

Present in coal ash are heavy metals and toxic chemicals that can be harmful to humans and wildlife. Arsenic poisoning can lead to heart disease, cancer, stroke, chronic lower respiratory diseases and diabetes. Cobalt has been linked to cardiovascular disease, gastrointestinal disorders, blood poisoning, liver injury and thyroid problems. Chromium is a carcinogen, and hexavalent chromium was the subject of the movie Erin Brockovich, which was based on the true story of groundwater contamination in Hinkley, California by Pacific Gas Electric Company.

MountainTrue and other advocates are encouraging members of the public who have concerns about Duke Energy’s proposal to attend the public hearing of the Utilities Commission on Wednesday, September 27 at 7 p.m. at the Buncombe County Courthouse.

 

Media Contact:

Karim Olaechea

Communications Director, MountainTrue

E: karim@mountiantrue.org; C: 415.535.9004

 

About MountainTrue

MountainTrue is Western North Carolina’s premier advocate for environmental stewardship. We are committed to keeping our mountain region a beautiful place to live, work, and play. Our members protect our forests, clean up our rivers, plan vibrant and livable communities, and advocate for a sound and sustainable future for all residents of WNC. MountainTrue is home to the French Broad Riverkeeper, Green Riverkeeper, Watauga Riverkeeper and the Broad River Alliance, the protectors and defenders of their respective watersheds.

 

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Western North Carolina is blessed with more than 1.5 million acres of public land, including Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway and several state-owned parks, forests and natural areas. These public lands support the headwaters of our rivers, beautiful mountain vistas, one of the most diverse temperate forests on the planet, and a thriving economy in tourism, crafts and recreation.
During its 30-year history, WNCA (now MountainTrue) has twice prevented logging in the Asheville Watershed, first in 1990 and again in 2004. Eventually the City of Asheville placed a conservation easement over 17,356 acres of the watershed.