Aug 06, 2015

Duke Energy Begins Submitting Groundwater Assessment Reports

The assessments contain data for each of the company's 14 coal plants in North Carolina

Duke Energy comprehensive groundwater assessments

On Aug. 5, 2015, Duke Energy began submitting comprehensive groundwater assessments to the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (NCDENR) for each of its 14 coal plants in the state.

The assessments are the result of thousands of hours of work by outside experts providing the most comprehensive information gathered to date about the groundwater near Duke Energy's coal ash sites in North Carolina.

The company and NCDENR will use this science and engineering, along with other information, to determine how best to continue to protect groundwater as ash basins are closed.

Generally, the data gathered through the installation of about 900 new monitoring wells and more than 5,000 soil and water samples across the state have been consistent with historical data provided to state regulators over many years. 

The first three assessments address operations at the H.F. Lee Energy Complex (Goldsboro, N.C.), L.V. Sutton Energy Complex (Wilmington, N.C.) and W.H. Weatherspoon Plant (Lumberton, N.C.) 

While study continues, the assessments indicate:

  • H.F. Lee: Groundwater near ash basins is flowing away from neighbors' private wells. Impacted groundwater has migrated off site in isolated areas where there are no private wells.
  • Sutton: As previously reported, the company is addressing offsite groundwater impacts by partnering in 2013 with the local water utility to extend a new municipal water line that is underway now and by installing 12 interceptor wells that will pump groundwater back to the plant. Private drinking water wells sampled by NCDENR to date show exceedances only for substances that also are naturally occurring and common in the region's soil.
  • Weatherspoon: Groundwater near ash basins is flowing away from neighbors' private wells. The area of groundwater impact is confined to the ash basin footprint and the former coal pile area.
  • Data demonstrate that water quality in the Cape Fear, Neuse and Lumber rivers has not been affected by ash basin operations.

Comprehensive site assessments for the company's other 11 North Carolina facilities will be filed with regulators by mid-September, which is consistent with the requirements in the North Carolina Coal Ash Management Act. In each case, an overview and executive summaries of these lengthy reports will be posted online.

Water quality in private wells can be influenced by the soils and rock in the area, as well as human or animal sources.

The next phase of work includes additional sampling and computer modeling in the next 90 days to better understand how groundwater conditions are expected to change over time. Where groundwater impacts need to be addressed, the sampling results and modeling will inform the best engineering solutions to protect groundwater long term.

In addition to completing groundwater assessments, Duke Energy has ash excavation in progress at three coal plants in the Carolinas (the Asheville and Riverbend plants in North Carolina and W.S. Lee plant in South Carolina) and recently announced its recommendation to excavate an additional 12 basins in North Carolina for technical reasons unrelated to groundwater. It continues to study remaining basins in North Carolina and will use this groundwater data and modeling to inform effective basin closure recommendations that are based in good science and engineering.