NCDENR has known about groundwater contamination at Duke Energy’s Dan River plant for years

NCDENR has known about groundwater contamination at Duke Energy’s Dan River plant for years


In 2000, the coal industry made a deal with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: It would self-monitor groundwater contamination if the agency did not regulate coal ash.

Some of those promised groundwater monitoring wells weren’t installed until Dec. 2008 — the same month as the Tennessee Valley Authority coal ash disaster in Kingston, Tenn. So, there isn’t as much data as there should be.

From Appalachian Voices, circa 2009, on groundwater contamination in North Carolina due to coal ash impoundments. (Read the report.)

The power companies are supposed to monitor groundwater at the review boundary (which apparently Duke failed to do for the Dan River plant).


Detailed analysis of the monitoring data clearly indicates that pollutants are leaching from NC coal ash basins and contaminating groundwater. NC law does not require the power companies to clean up the toxic pollutants until it extends far beyond the boundary of the coal ash pond and reaches an arbitrarily identified “compliance boundary”. There appears to be very little monitoring data from wells outside of the compliance boundary thus it is impossible to tell whetherheavy metals and other pollutants commonly found in coal ash have reached nearby public water supplies without additional testing.

In 2010, the N.C. General Assembly passed legislation that required coal companies in the state to install additional groundwater monitoring wells. Still, though, the companies were left to self-monitor. (Read the bill.)

In 2011, I asked the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources for groundwater monitoring data on Duke Energy’s Riverbend plant and was told that if I wanted it, I’d have to travel from Charlotte, N.C., to the state’s capital to get it; and then they made me pay for the reports. Later that year, I met with members of Sen. Kay Hagan’s staff in D.C. and was told that if that ever happened again, to call her office and they would intervene.

This week, I’ve asked NCDENR — making known what Sen. Hagan’s office had said — for groundwater sampling results from the Duke Energy Dan River plant.

Here is what they sent me:

Dan River groundwater sampling test results from March 2013 to Oct. 2013.(Google Docs PDF)

Dan River groundwater sampling test results from Dec. 2010 to Feb. 2014.(Google Docs spreadsheet)

2009 inspection report on the Dan River plant’s coal ash impoundments, as submitted to the EPA. (Good Docs PDF)

And, here’s an unedited email from NCDENR (as previously posted):

Easier to email this than tweet it.

A discussion of the impacts to groundwater from the Duke Energy Dan River power station ash ponds can be found on the DENR website section that deals with the department’s motions for injunctive relief:

The link for Duke Energy Carolinas, LLC Complaint and Motion for Injunctive Relief takes you to this file:

The section on the Dan River Combined Cycle Station begins on page 28 of that file. This is where we have a discussion of groundwater impacts.

The plant has recorded exceedances of groundwater standards at or beyond the compliance boundary for antimony, arsenic, boron, iron, manganese, total dissolved solids, and sulfate. A chart of exceedances data for this facility is available as Exhibit No. 10 –

It is my understanding there are no drinking water wells in the vicinity.

Let me know if you need anything else.

Michele Walker, Public Information Officer
N.C. Dept. of Environment & Natural Resources
Office of Public Affairs/Division of Coastal Management

In the past, I’ve asked NCDENR why it hasn’t taken enforcement action relating to the groundwater exceedances and was told that they didn’t have enough data yet.

Related: EPA reports on Dan River coal ash ponds, circa 2009

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: