DENR responds to groundwater leak at Cliffside Steam Station

Feb. 28, 2014 @ 05:34 PM

The North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and Duke Energy have been at the Cliffside Steam Station responding to a groundwater discharge from a drainage pipe.

According to a report from DENR, the leak was discovered Thursday afternoon during a routine inspection of the plant. Duke Energy informed DENR a discharge of nearly 0.8 gallons per minute coming from "the permitted outfall of an emergency pond."

DENR officials said discharge from the pond is anticipated during "extreme storm events." Duke reported a corrugated steel outfall pipe was torn due to corrosion allowing groundwater to come into the pipe. However, DENR officials said the no groundwater reached the Broad River.

“Fortunately, we observe no environmental impacts from this discharge,” said Tom Reeder, director of the N.C. Division of Water Resources, in a statement. “However, we need to emphasize increased attention to all aspects of the infrastructure at Duke Energy’s facilities across the state.”

Crews from Duke Energy attempted, unsuccessfully, to repair the pipe Thursday and returned to Cliffside Friday to contain and collect the discharged water into collection tanks. DENR said Duke plans to remove the water in the collection tanks to a treatment pond twice a day until the discharge has been fixed.

The area holds comingled storm and wastewater from another basin during strong storms. DENR reported the last time the basin was used was in 2005 when the area received nine inches of rain.

DENR said the corroded areas of the pipe fed groundwater to a discharge point where water "infiltrated the soil."

The Associated Press reported the basin is built on top of a coal ash dump.

Duke Energy officials did not respond to calls made by The Daily Courier.

Four weeks ago, a similar pipe collapsed at Duke's plant near Eden, leaking coal ash into the Dan River. The AP reported nearly 70 miles of the river was affected by the ash leak.

DENR officials said their Dam Safety Program plan representatives will be onsite in Cliffside next week for a routine dam safety inspection and will look at the damaged area at that point.