Many Dukeville residents getting water from Duke Energy but are frustrated by the delay

Published: May. 20, 2015 at 3:10 PM EDT|Updated: Jun. 19, 2015 at 3:10 PM EDT
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SALISBURY, NC (WBTV) - Deborah Graham says it's about time.  On Tuesday night she got her first supply of water from Duke Energy.  She says not being able to use the tap has meant a dramatic lifestyle change.

“Twice I remember I filled up the coffee pot out of the sink and had to remember that I'm not drinking that water so I had to dump it out," Graham told WBTV on Wednesday. “I got jug water sitting here at the coffee pot in the other room, I got bottled water sitting I the bathroom, that is my new décor, is I've got water.”

Graham spoke with WBTV in the office of Salisbury law firm Wallace & Graham.  The firm is representing a number of Dukeville area residents.

Deborah Graham was among the first residents of the community near the Buck Steam station to receive a letter telling her that she should stop drinking her water after tests found contaminants.

Duke Energy says the contaminants could be naturally occurring and may not be related to the coal ash pond near the homes in the area. Even so, Duke has agreed to provide water to certain residents while further testing is conducted.

"I received a letter from the state of North Carolina Saturday saying that my water was not safe to drink, so I had to go out and get water," Deborah Graham told WBTV on April 21 after receiving the letter.  "I was just scared, nervous and scared, you know, you use your water everyday."

Under the Coal Ash Management Act of 2014, the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) required Duke Energy to contract with private laboratories to collect samples at water supply wells within 1,000 feet of each facility's boundary.

Several of the letters cite high levels of vanadium, a naturally occurring element found in coal classified as hazardous by federal health officials.

Duke Energy says the wells still meet the criteria for the federal Safe Drinking Water Act, which regulates public drinking water.

"In past health evaluations last year, the state determined that vanadium concentrations below 18 ppb are protective of human health. In these current evaluations, the state is using a much lower 0.3 ppb limit called the "interim maximum allowable concentration." There is currently no EPA drinking water standard for vanadium," Duke said in a statement to WBTV.

They added, "Vanadium also is not part of the suite of constituents that the new federal CCR rule monitors, because it is typically not associated with coal ash but more with petroleum and oil products."

On Wednesday Erin Culbert with Duke Energy spoke with WBTV at length about the process to get water to residents in Rowan County who have been told that their drinking water is not safe.

Culbert said that Duke was delivering the water through a third party service, and that deliveries were being made every two weeks.  Each person receives enough to equal a supply of about one gallon per person, per day.

Duke is not required to provide the water but is doing do to be "a good neighbor" Culbert said.  The deliveries are likely to continue until further testing is completed in August that may indicate whether or not the ash basin is having any impact on drinking water.

One thing that Duke has found encouraging, according to Culbert, is that no high level of boron or sulfates have been found in the tested well water, and Culbert says those are the key indicators found when there is a potential influence from an ash basin.

If any link is established, Duke would then be required to provide water, and would consider installing a municipal water line, according to Culbert.