State directs Duke Energy to resubmit groundwater plans for coal ash facilities

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RALEIGH, N.C. – State officials this week directed Duke Energy to resubmit its plans for assessing groundwater at North Carolina’s 14 coal ash facilities because the plans the company submitted to the state in September are inadequate.

The N.C. Division of Water Resources requested in August that the company submit groundwater assessment work plans for all 14 of its coal ash facilities in North Carolina. As outlined in the Coal Ash Management Act of 2014, the groundwater assessments will play a key role in helping the state determine the priority classifications for cleaning up the coal ash facilities.

State water resources officials received Duke’s groundwater assessment work plans on Sept. 26, the deadline imposed by the state in response to Gov. Pat McCrory’s executive order on coal ash. After reviewing the plans, state officials determined that the plans were inadequate and sent the company a series of letters Wednesday detailing what Duke Energy must do before resubmitting work plans for all of its facilities. Revised plans are due within 30 days.

“The plan as submitted fails to provide an adequate level of detail regarding the planned assessment activities, which if left unchanged may lead to an inadequate assessment of environmental conditions at the site,” Jay Zimmerman, a section chief in the state agency, wrote to Harry K. Sideris, a senior vice president at Duke Energy about the coal ash impoundments at the Asheville Steam Electric Plant.

The letters address issues at all of Duke’s facilities as well as items specific to individual facilities. At all the facilities, Duke must develop better models for collecting data about groundwater contamination and determine the extent, types and movement of contamination at the facilities, the letters state. The letters request Duke to propose additional field work, including borings, cores and well installations, necessary to characterize and develop an accurate understanding of the subsurface conditions that affect groundwater flow as well as how and where contaminants move. Also, Duke’s original plans do not have sufficient information on surface water and bed sediment sampling, each letter states.

“The Division expects base flow surface water and bed sediment sampling to be included in the site assessment and the GAP (groundwater assessment plan),” the letter states. “These data will provide information on surface water quality and will be useful in efforts to understand the interaction of ground and surface water at the site.”

Copies of the state’s letters can be found at: http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/wq//coal_ash_gw_assessment_plans.