Duke Energy offers cash and water bill payments to coal ash neig - | WBTV Charlotte

Duke Energy offers cash and water bill payments to coal ash neighbors

A Dukeville house with bottled water on the porch (David Whisenant-WBTV A Dukeville house with bottled water on the porch (David Whisenant-WBTV

On Friday, Duke Energy received preliminary approval from the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (NCDEQ) of its $53 million plan to offer permanent water supplies to eligible neighbors near its North Carolina coal plants, according to a news release.

“Today’s decision finally resolves this issue for plant neighbors and helps preserve the full range of safe basin closure options, which benefits all customers,” said David Fountain, Duke Energy president - North Carolina. 

“We care for the communities we serve and recognize the uncertainty neighbors experienced with water standards. That’s why we voluntarily provided bottled water, supported the legislation to offer neighbors a new, permanent water supply and are now adding a goodwill financial supplement. At the same time, the body of evidence continues to grow, demonstrating that ash basins are not impacting well water quality,” he said.

For months, the company has been providing bottled water after the state advised residents not to drink the well water due to the presence of cancer causing chemicals and the proximity of the wells to a coal ash pond.

“I think probably the well water did get a little contaminated but sooner or later you don’t know whether it’s going to be safe or not with or without the ash pond down there," said Jerry Jowers of Dukeville.

In December, Duke Energy said that it would connect 702 homes and businesses near the coal ash ponds to municipal water lines.  Those connections would be available to those property owners near the Charlotte area plants that include Allen on Lake Wylie, Marshall on Lake Norman and Buck on the Yadkin River in Rowan County.

According to the release, in its preliminary approval, NCDEQ noted it will gather additional information about water quality standards and the treatment systems. Duke Energy will provide the agency with any information that it requests as part of that process.

Duke says that it is now providing more than what is required by law under the terms of the coal ash settlement.

"The company has finalized the details of a one-time financial supplement to help provide eligible property owners peace of mind by addressing concerns they’ve expressed about property values, new water bills or disturbances during construction or maintenance," the release states.

The cost of this program will be borne by shareholders and not included in customer bills, according to Duke Energy. 

The company will offer a $5,000 "goodwill" payment per property to support the transition to a new water supply. Nearly 1000 homeowners or businesses within one half mile of a coal ash pond would be eligible for the payment.

In communities where a public water supply is available and selected, such as Rowan County, neighbors will receive a stipend to cover approximately 25 years of water bills. The payment will be based on water rates in their community and an average residential usage of 5,000 gallons a month. The stipends range from nearly $8,000 to $22,000, depending on the local water rate. 

Salisbury attorney Mona Wallace, who works for the firm that represents many of the coal ash neighbors, says the plan does not go far enough.

“We believe that Duke’s announcement is too little, too late,” Wallace said in a statement. “Duke’s monetary offer does not begin to compensate the worst-affected homeowners. Many individuals have had their property value severely damaged and they are entitled to greater compensation that what Duke is now promising. In addition, these families should have received clean water hookups at no cost to themselves, many months ago, as this crisis has dragged on far too long. We continue to review our legal options for our many affected clients.”

More specific details and information on the goodwill supplement will be shared with plant neighbors in the coming weeks through mailings and information sessions, Duke Energy says.

To learn more about the plant-specific water plans and the step-by-step process approved by the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, check duke-energy.com/WaterPlans.

According to Duke Energy, scientific data continue to show that coal ash basins are not impacting neighbors’ wells, including a recent Duke University study that confirms hexavalent chromium is naturally occurring across the region and not originating from ash basins.

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