Wake County Superior Court Judge Paul Ridgeway ruled today that Duke Energy must take immediate action to eliminate the sources of groundwater contamination that are currently violating water quality standards at all 14 of its coal-fired power plants in North Carolina.
According to the Southern Environmental Law Center, the ruling comes in the wake of recent claims by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) that it lacks the legal authority to require cleanup of the ash ponds which hold millions of gallons of toxic coal ash. DENR’s comments were made in response to the February 2014 coal ash spill that dumped up to 35,000 tons of coal ash into the Dan River.
“The ruling leaves no doubt, Duke Energy is past due on its obligation to eliminate the sources of groundwater contamination, its unlined coal ash pits, and the State has both the authority and a duty to require action now,” said D.J. Gerken, senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center who represented the conservation groups in the case. “This ruling enforces a common-sense requirement in existing law - before you can clean up contaminated groundwater, you first must stop the source of the contamination- in this case, Duke’s unlined coal ash pits.”
Read the court’s full order here.