DENR looks at other Duke permits
The North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) has informed Duke Energy of its intent to review wastewater discharge permits at three more Duke power plants.
On Friday, DENR officials said its permit review may include requiring Duke to eliminate all “unauthorized discharges and potentially remove coal ash” from basins at the Riverbend (Gaston County), Sutton Steam Electric Plant (Wilmington) and Asheville (Buncombe County) power plants.
“We’ve been doing inspections and they are more intense inspections,” said Bridget Munger, DENR spokeswoman. “Two divisions are going to each facility and we are looking at everything.”
The announcement came nine days after DENR cited the Cliffside Steam Station for not obtaining mandatory storm water permits. Munger said the Cliffside Steam Station has never applied for a storm water permit. The plant does have a wastewater permit but no storm water regulations are written into the wastewater permit.
The Cliffside Steam Plant was the subject of monitoring by state officials after a tension pond which contained storm and wastewater overflowed to a secondary pond and into a corrugated pipe that failed, leaking the water into the ground. The Cliffside plant was also cited for issues at two of its “high-hazard” dams. Those issues ranged from improper vegetation on berms to seepage and corrosion in pipes lying at the base of one of the dams.
Munger said the initial damaged pipe has no discharge as of Friday. Duke has responded to the state about plans to fix the pipe.
“They have a little time to make the changes we requested because those things are not going to happen overnight,” Munger said.
The state will review wastewater permits at Riverbend and Sutton. DENR said, in a release, the Sutton plant received a notice of violation on March 3 for not obtaining a storm water permit — similar to the violation cited at Cliffside.
Munger said Duke is in the process of renewing its wastewater permit for the Asheville Plant. Because of that, the state “has the prerogative to change the permit requirements.” If the state makes any augmentations to the permit in Asheville, it will require a 45-day public comment period before implementation.
The permits at Riverbend and Sutton allow Duke to discharge coal ash basin water from storage ponds into nearby waterways. Duke has 60 days to respond to the state’s decision to reopen the permits.
Munger said the latest facilities to have their permits reviewed have been identified as “high-priority” and need to be addressed immediately.
Plants are required to have a NPDES wastewater and NPDES storm water permit to regulate discharges.
The permits became commonplace after the 1972 passage of the Clean Water Act which included sections addressing different types of pollution.
Friday’s notification was one in a long string of recent issues between DENR and Duke Energy.
Actions began after a Feb. 2 coal ash spill into the Dan River from Duke’s Eden Plant. The spill into the Dan River was the result of a storm water pipe bursting under a coal ash pile, releasing nearly 80,000 tons of coal ash into the river. Officials said nearly 70 miles of the Dan River was affected by the spill near the North Carolina-Virginia border.
The investigations into the Cliffside dams were part of a statewide inspection of all Duke’s facilities in the wake of the Dan River spill.
Duke responded to recent complaints by issuing a letter to DENR. DENR Secretary John Skvarla said the response “lacked the detail necessary to ensure Duke abides by the commitments outlined in their letter.”