DEQ Puts Cliffside Area Residents at Risk of Coal Ash Contamination

DEQ Puts Cliffside Area Residents at Risk of Coal Ash Contamination


DEQ Puts Cliffside Area Residents at Risk of Coal Ash Contamination


photo: courtesy of Duke Energy

The Department of Environmental Quality’s (DEQ) risk classification for North Carolina’s coal ash pits puts the health of residents who live downstream from the Cliffside coal ash impoundments, including those who live in Shelby and Gaffney, SC, at risk from contaminated drinking water.

The DEQ issued its Coal Combustion Residual Impoundment Risk Classifications report on the afternoon of Friday, January 29. The DEQ has classified two of the Cliffside coal ash pits as low and one as “low/intermediate” priority despite testing that shows high levels of arsenic, chromium, cobalt, hexavalent chromium, thallium and vanadium contaminating groundwater and flowing into the Broad River. A classification of high or even intermediate priority would require Duke Energy excavate the sites, while a low rating means coal ash will be left on the banks of the Broad river to pollute a public drinking water source in perpetuity.

David Caldwell, coordinator of the Broad River Alliance — a Waterkeeper Alliance Affiliate, states:

“We know there are toxic chemicals in these ash ponds, and we know that they’re spilling into the Broad River and seeping into our drinking water. On every criteria set out by legislature in the Coal Ash Management Act, these three sites deserve a failing grade. If we don’t push the DEQ, all they’ll require for these pits it that they be covered and left in place to continue polluting our water in perpetuity. We are asking DEQ to show us the same respect given to 13 other communities across NC, and have the ash ponds permanently removed.”

DEQ is required to rate the ponds high, intermediate or low based on three criteria: the impact to surface water, the impact to groundwater and dam safety. According to the DEQ’s own Corrective Action Plan for the Cliffside Steam Station Ash Basin (November 16, 2015) all three of the Cliffside sites deserve a failing grade.

  • Pollution of Groundwater:
    All three Cliffside coal ash ponds pollute the groundwater with high levels of toxic metals, including arsenic at over 468 times the state’s safety standard, vanadium at 690 times the standard, hexavalent chromium at 185 times the standard and cobalt at 119 times the standard. The polluted groundwater from all three pits flows into the Broad River and Suck Creek, which are drinking water sources for Shelby NC, Gaffney SC and other downstream municipalities.
  • Pollution of Surface Water:
    All three coal ash ponds pollute the Broad River and Suck Creek with 28 illegal discharges that dump millions of gallons of toxic heavy metals each day, including chromium at 51 times the limit, arsenic at 37 times the state’s safety, and cobalt at 19 times the state’s safety standard.
  • Deficiency of Dam Infrastructure:
    DEQ has rated the dams as low priority despite the fact that the three Cliffside coal ash ponds received 5 notices of deficiency for dam structural integrity in 2014. DEQ has justified its ratings based on the outcome of future renovations to the dams’ structure that have yet to be completed. The Coal Ash Management Act was designed to rate the dams on their current risk and currently all the dams have received recent notice of deficiencies for many of the same problems that caused the Dan River spill.

The heavy metals and toxic chemicals seeping from the Cliffside coal ash pits are present at levels that are 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, a conservation organizations that is active on issues affecting the Broad River watershed, encourages residents to attend one of two DEQ public hearings on the Cliffside plants scheduled for March 14.

  • Cleveland County Hearing on Cliffside Coal Ash Classification
    Monday March 14 at 6:00 PM
    114 E. College Ave, Shelby, NC 28152
  • Rutherford County Hearing on Cliffside Coal Ash Classification
    Monday March 14 at 6:00 PM
    Isothermal Community College Auditorium, 286 ICC Loop Rd, Spindale, NC 28160

For more information on the public hearings and DEQ coal ash classifications, visit http://mountaintrue.org.

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 Watauga Riverkeeper, the primary watchdog and spokesperson for the Elk and Watauga Rivers; the French Broad Riverkeeper, the primary protector and defender of the French Broad River watershed; and Broad River Alliance, a Waterkeeper Affiliate working to promote fishable, swimmable, drinkable waters in the Broad River Basin. For more information: mountaintrue.org

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


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.

7/24: Save the French Broad Concert — Matisyahu at the Orange Peel

7/24: Save the French Broad Concert — Matisyahu at the Orange Peel

matisyahuOP

Please join us on July 24 as Matisyahu helps us in our ongoing work to save the French Broad River! Matisyahu is an American artist known for blending Orthodox Jewish themes with reggae, rock and hip hop beatboxing sounds. Matisyahu’s 2005 single “King Without a Crown” was a Top 40 hit.

Tickets are $25 in advance/$28 day of show.  This is an all-ages show!

We’re also hosting a VIP meet-and-greet with Matisyahu from 6-8 p.m. at Pulp, just before the concert on July 24.  VIP tickets include catered food and complimentary Sweetwater beer. Cost is $60 for a VIP ticket with a seat on the reserved seating platform during the show, and $50 without guaranteed seating.

Get your tickets today by clicking HERE.

THANK YOU TO OUR GENEROUS SPONSORS!

98.1theriver Compressed-Save-our-Water-Logo mxlogo Blue-Ridge-Outdoors-Magazine2


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.

5/22-5/30: Join us for Beer Week (and for clean water!) at Universal Joint

UJ in West Asheville

UJ in West Asheville

Join MountainTrue and American Whitewater at the Universal Joint (748 Haywood Road) for Beer Week — and clean water! — from May 22-30 when 100 percent of the daily beer special sales will be split between MountainTrue and American Whitewater.
 
Drink a beer and support clean water and recreation in French Broad River. Come any day of beer week, but Thursday will feature special giveaways, including a waterproof French Broad River Paddle Trail map, and MountainTrue swag.

Participating Breweries are:

Wicked Weed
Foothills
New Belgium
Asheville Brewing
Pisgah
Oskar Blues
Lagunitas
Hi-Wire
Lonerider
Catawba
Sierra Nevada
Sweetwater
French Broad Brewing
Noble Cider
Highland

BREAKING: Asheville coal plant retirement signals end to coal ash pollution

BREAKING: Asheville coal plant retirement signals end to coal ash pollution

AVLBeyondCoalFloat

 

Continued Reliance on Fossil Fuels Troubling to the Region

Asheville, NC – In an announcement today, Duke Energy revealed a proposal to retire the Asheville Plant, a 414 MW nameplate capacity (376 MW operating capacity) coal-fired power plant located near Asheville, North Carolina. The announcement includes plans to replace coal-fired power at the plant with new, larger gas fired generation options. Additionally, Duke has committed to building a solar farm on the site of coal ash ponds near the plant. Today’s announcement marks the 190th coal plant announced for retirement since the beginning of the Beyond Coal campaign.

In Response to Today’s Announcement MountainTrue, Sierra Club, Southern Environmental Law Center and Waterkeeper Alliance issued the following joint statement:

“For the last three years the Asheville Beyond Coal Campaign and thousands of individuals have called on Duke Energy to transition our region off of coal. This has been a struggle to protect our health, our families and our communities. It has required tireless effort to pursue a brighter vision for Asheville. We can declare victory in securing closure of the plant, for it means an end is in sight for the air, water, and carbon pollution from this plant, but Duke’s announcement to build new gas is inconsistent with the clean energy vision we have called for.

“While we applaud Duke’s decision to retire the Asheville plant, Duke failed to hear what people wanted in its place. Folks want a bright future that supports clean energy, not a giant gas plant polluting Asheville for another 30 years. North Carolina has the opportunity to be a leader in clean energy generation through aggressive investments in solar power and energy efficiency, and Duke Energy must be a partner in that effort – but moves like this deeply undermine the ability to bring online clean, reliable 21st century energy options that will create good jobs right here at home.

 “North Carolinians deserve clean water and home grown electricity options that invest in local communities and create jobs here in our community. North Carolina has some of the best potential in the nation to harvest the sun for our power needs but Duke Energy must be a partner in that investment if the state is ever to see the real benefits of clean energy.  While the proposed solar farm is a step in the right direction, it falls far short of the investment needed to move the region to a clean energy future.

“Additionally, this announcement does nothing to address evidence of unsafe air pollution from the Asheville Plant; under Duke’s proposal, the plant could continue to emit sulfur dioxide at levels that threaten public health until the coal-burning units are retired.

“The retirement of the Asheville Plant is a step in the right direction, but it is a half measure, undermined by continuing reliance on an economically unpredictable and polluting source of power. Duke can do better, and our community deserves better.  We will continue to use every tool at our disposal to fight for clean energy solutions for Western North Carolina.”


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.

MSNBC: Duke Energy admits guilt in coal ash case

MSNBC: Duke Energy admits guilt in coal ash case

Rachel Maddow reports on the guilty plea by Duke Energy to nine criminal violations of the federal Clean Water Act, vindicating Riverkeeper activists who caught the North Carolina company in the act of illegal polluting.


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.

5/13: Rally for Racial & Environmental Justice

rally for racial & environmental justice

Join us from 11 a.m – 1 p.m. May 13 on Halifax Mall in Raleigh to call for the state of North Carolina to take urgent action to help communities living with pollution and impacts from industrial swine and poultry production.

Most North Carolina residents, except those living in “hog country” and near poultry operations, are unaware of how much environmental damage and human pain and suffering industrial meat production inflicts on people and their environment. For too long, industrial meat operations in North Carolina and across the country have been disproportionately located in communities of color where residents are forced to endure the smell, water quality impacts and the embarrassment associated with the facilities operating near their homes. Meanwhile, State officials have turned a blind eye to the impacts on local communities while catering to the interests of multinational corporations that dictate industry practices.

This past September, Waterkeeper Alliance, North Carolina Environmental Justice Network and Rural Empowerment Association for Community Help, represented by Earthjustice and the University of North Carolina Center for Civil Rights, filed a complaint with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Civil Rights alleging that lax regulation of hog waste disposal by the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) discriminates against minority communities in eastern North Carolina. And in February, the U.S. EPA determined that an investigation is warranted.

Esteemed leaders of the environmental and civil rights movements will gather in downtown Raleigh to urge the State of North Carolina to take much-needed action to set things right and call on citizens to demand clean water and healthy air for ALL communities.

Speakers include:

North Carolina Waterkeeper organizations are providing bus transportation to and from the rally. If you’re interested in riding with a group, CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP FOR A SEAT ON THE BUS FROM ASHEVILLE.