Duke Energy fields questions about safety after coal ash spill


Duke officials took questions Thursday during a public Q&A at a school near the Duke Energy facility in Moncure. It is Duke Energy's largest coal ash facility, and the closest to the Triangle. It's also where Duke Energy pumped tens of millions of gallons of toxic pond water into the Cape Fear River.

Officials fielded questions about water safety, the integrity of the berms that hold back the water in the ponds, and the future of what is Duke's oldest coal power plant.

During Chopper 11's first look at the spill a few months ago, our cameras spotted Duke Energy pumping water out of two coal ash basins, raising questions by the state and environmentalists.

Within days, the State issued a notice of violation.

Duke Energy maintains it did nothing wrong.

"I believe we initially communicated our plans last August to DENR [NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources] for that project," said Duke Energy spokesman Jeff Brooks.

Brooks also disagreed that seeps (areas where toxic ash water leaks through the dam into the river) are a violation.

According to the state, that is a violation. But Duke disagrees.

"It is not uncommon that seeps do occur," Brooks said. "They're part of the normal engineering ... things that are designed to relieve pressure on the basin."

But is it a violation?

"That's something we continue to discuss with our regulators," Brooks said.

Brooks wouldn't say what the company's long-term plans are for the coal ash basins in Cape Fear. The plant is being decommissioned, torn down, and by 2015 it should all be gone.

But the basins will stay behind for now.

Which has folks who live nearby came to Thursday's Q&A with their own questions about the plant and what it means to live near it.

"We all have to breathe and drink, and we want to make sure that it is safe for us," one woman said.

Duke Energy maintains everything is safe, and they have been playing by the rules. That's what people at the Q&A heard.

Ask environmentalists and ask the State that question, and you get very different answers.

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