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:

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

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:; C: 415.535.9004

David Caldwell
Coordinator, Broad River Alliance – A Waterkeeper Alliance Affiliate
E: 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:




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.