Sound Rivers Joins Groups Warning of Coal Ash Loopholes

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Upper Neuse Riverkeeper Matthew Starr investigates toxic coal ash seepage into the Neuse River (2016)

Sound Rivers Joins Environmental Groups Warning Of Loopholes In DEQ Coal Ash Classifications

RALEIGH – The coal ash classifications released by the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) acknowledge that no coal ash storage sites are safe, but environmental advocates remain concerned about loop holes in cleanup plans that could delay or prevent future excavation of the toxic ash.

The Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) released its final coal ash pond classifications today, rating all 10 sites as either “Intermediate” or “High” risk. However, the classifications included a provision indicating the legislature will be able to revisit the classificationsin 18 months.

Environmental experts and advocates responded with concern.

“We’re glad to see DEQ acknowledge that communities around the ash pits need permanent, safe water supplies and that there are no low-risk sites,” said Matt Starr, Upper Neuse Riverkeeper. “But it is past time for the state to make Duke Energy clean them up, without leaving a door open to backtrack after the election.”

“There are loopholes here that allow Duke to just kick the can down the road as far as cleanup goes,” said Sam Perkins, Catawba Riverkeeper. “There are hundreds of families across the state still living with contaminated water and have no idea when their communities will actually be cleaned up.”

“We were disappointed that DEQ has requested a “do over” on these classifications from the legislature in eighteen months,” said Yadkin Riverkeeper Will Scott. “That will play into Duke Energy’s hands and give them a chance to use their political influence to downgrade sites like Buck where tens of thousands of gallons of polluted water a day leak from the coal ash ponds into the Yadkin River.”

“Around Belews Creek Station, we have more coal ash than any other site,” said Amy Adams, NC Organizer for Appalachian Voices. “It will take a long time to clean once excavation has begun, and sadly we still have no idea if or when that will happen.”

Community members living around these sites were skeptical as well.

“We’ve said from the beginning that we want full cleanup of all coal ash sites,” said Deborah Graham. “This just looks like DEQ is playing games, since we don’t really know if or when the coal ash will ever be cleaned up.”