Goldsboro residents worry over tainted water from nearby ash pond
Posted April 22, 2015
Goldsboro, N.C. — After state regulators began telling people who live near Duke Energy coal ash ponds that their well water was contaminated, some Goldsboro residents said their worst fears are being confirmed.
The state Department of Environment and Natural Resources said Tuesday that tests of 87 private wells near eight Duke plants across North Carolina, including plants near Roxboro and Wilmington, showed results that failed to meet state groundwater standards.
A state law passed after last year's massive spill of ash-laden sludge into the Dan River required wells within 1,000 feet of Duke's 32 coal ash dumps across the state to be tested. About 145 private wells have been sampled since October.
Ten wells in Goldsboro, where the mothballed H.F. Lee Plant and its ash ponds sit a few miles upstream from the city's water intake on the Neuse River, also are being tested, but the results aren't in yet.
Resident Michael Caraway said he worries about his health and that of his neighbors.
"You have farmers that use this water," Caraway said. "So, it's getting into vegetation and the animals. Wherever that water goes, those toxins go."
Tests have found high levels of vanadium, a naturally occurring element found in oil and coal classified as hazardous by federal health officials, as well as elevated levels of antimony and manganese, two heavy metals also found in coal ash.
A Duke spokeswoman has said there is no evidence tying the chemicals to the ash ponds at their power plants, saying the materials could be naturally occurring in the soil.
Caraway said Duke's stance demonstrates a lack of accountability.
"I was in the military. If the military creates a problem somewhere, before they leave out, they've got to clean that up. They've got to make that land as good or better when they left it," he said.
He added that he doesn't need to see the test results on his well water to know that something bad is in his well water.
"People are dying," he said. "We don't know if it's a direct cause of the plant and these coal ash ponds, but people are dying."
Tom Reeder, the assistant secretary overseeing water quality for the state, said Duke will be required to provide the affected residents with an alternative water supply if it is determined the company's coal ash is the source of the groundwater contamination.
The nation's largest electricity company, Duke stores more than 150 million tons of coal ash in 32 dumps at 14 power plants in North Carolina.
In February, federal prosecutors charged Duke with nine criminal counts over years of illegal pollution leaking from ash dumps at five of the plants. The company has said it intends to plead guilty to the charges and pay $102 million in fines and restitution.
A separate state law passed in the wake of the Dan River spill requires the company to move or cap all of its dumps by 2029.