DENR threatens Duke with fines over coal ash spill
Posted February 28, 2014
Updated March 2, 2014
Raleigh, N.C. — North Carolina's Department of Environment and Natural Resources put Duke Energy on notice Friday that the company could be fined over the Feb. 2 coal ash spill into the Dan River.
Environmental regulators issued two "notices of violation" telling the company that it had violated state and federal clean water rules, although the exact size of any fine is uncertain.
"The starting points will depend upon what we learn in our investigation," said DENR spokesman Jamie Kritzer.
In the first notice, the state threatens a fine of up to $25,000 per day for discharging water into the Dan River without a permit. Duke Energy first reported the spill on Feb. 2, but Kritzer said the exact number of days that would be used to calculate the fine would depend upon what the agency could prove.
DENR used a second notice to enumerate other possible water quality violations and warn the company that it could face further fines over and above the $25,000 per day.
“These are violations of state and federal law, and we are holding the utility accountable,” DENR Secretary John Skvarla said in a news release.
According to the release, those other violations include:
- Making outlets to waters of the state without a permit via the 48-inch stormwater pipe that ruptured and caused the spill and a separate, 36-inch concrete stormwater pipe that also runs beneath the same coal ash pond. Wastewater from the coal ash pond discharged from both pipes to the Dan River.
- Failure to operate and maintain the ash pond such that any discharge from it was controlled and conveyed to the river in compliance with the company’s wastewater permit. The permit allows the utility to discharge coal ash basin water from storage ponds at the Eden facility. On Tuesday, DENR announced its plans to modify the company’s permit, which could require Duke to move coal ash from the basins at the Dan River power plant to a lined landfill.
- Failure to use or dispose of solids removed from the treatment process to prevent pollutants from entering waters of the state.
- Failure to take all reasonable steps to prevent any discharge in violation of the wastewater permit with the reasonable likelihood of affecting human health or the environment.
- Violations of the water quality standards for class C waters, the most common classification of surface waters in North Carolina. Class C waters are considered to support swimming and fishing.
The state did not list a specific dollar amount that the company could be fined in relation to the second set of violations.
Duke officials have already said that the company, its shareholders and insurance companies would bear the cost of the Dan River cleanup. That doesn't include the cost of compensating the state for damage that resulted from the spill, which one scientist estimates could exceed $70 million.