DENR threatens Duke with fines over coal ash spill

Posted February 28, 2014
Updated March 2, 2014

— 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.


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  • GK N.Ral Mar 3, 2014

    WTG NC. Always a year behind the action! Try being proactive, not reactive. They will probably blame this on a defective computer program.

  • Rebelyell55 Mar 3, 2014

    DENR is just putting on a show, they could of done this a year ago on first spill, they could of done it a few weeks ago. Now that the spot light and Fed investigation is on them, they're trying to put on a show of taking some action.

  • silverwomon Mar 3, 2014

    If it's anything like the last fine Duke Energy was given, it will be a token sum to prove the DENR is taking action. As long as McCory is in their back pocket, Duke Energy has nothing to worry about...

  • Forthe Newssite Mar 2, 2014
    user avatar

    THREATENS FINES????How about COLLECTS FINES!!! I want to see Duke Energy pay for this NOT the customers. Time will tell how it will all turn out but I'm not too hopeful for a hefty fine because of who they have in their pockets.

  • Phyllis Nunn Mar 1, 2014
    user avatar

    We've got to demand they clean it AND pay!!

  • tllight Mar 1, 2014

    DENR is pretty toothless it seems, increase the fines and bring a lawsuit against Duke , all NC consumers should be protected from any rate increases : Duke stockholders should pay

  • dbop90 Mar 1, 2014

    Hope they get it cleaned up!

  • Boogalooboy Mar 1, 2014

    why threaten, put it to them and deny increases for several yrs to cover their fines.... these days what entity is there to run utilities, insurance companies etc without trying to gouge the consumer to have the largest profit margin possible..

  • David Kirkman Mar 1, 2014
    user avatar

    My prediction is that when Governor Pope and Duke Power conclude their negotiations over lunch at the Capitol Club this fine will end up somewhere in the $5 to $10 range.

  • falysi Mar 1, 2014

    Forget threaten...just do it.