State listens to neighbors coal ash concerns

Coal ash concerns
Published: Mar. 23, 2016 at 2:20 AM EDT|Updated: Apr. 22, 2016 at 2:32 AM EDT
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Residents at the coal ash meeting in Rowan County (David Whisenant-WBTV)
Residents at the coal ash meeting in Rowan County (David Whisenant-WBTV)

DALLAS, NC (WBTV) - Frustration was in the atmosphere Tuesday night as hundreds gathered for a meeting to discuss coal ash basins at Gaston County's Allen Steam Station.

"Would you want your family living beside a toxic dump?" one man asked.

One by one, residents stepped up to podium to express their continuing concerns. The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) held the meeting at Gaston College.

DEQ recently downgraded Allen's risk classification to low to intermediate, a decision that hasn't been welcomed by Gaston County residents.

"It feels like they're grading their own homework," a speaker said.

The state will consider the risk classification again this summer, but if it stays low to intermediate, Duke could wait until 2029 to close the basins at the Allen plant.

"Each ash basin is unique and requires a specific closure option for that basin," Duke Energy's Catherine Butler said.

Many residents in the area have been living off bottled water for over a year. They believe their wells are contaminated and have caused a slew of health problems. But Duke Energy continues to say the water is perfectly fine.

"My water was unsafe today and a year ago. Nothing has changed but the state's willingness to protect us," Belmont resident Amy Brown said.

DEQ held a similar meeting in Rowan County Tuesday night regarding Duke's Buck Steam Station.  That meeting attracted about two hundred residents of the Dukeville area in Rowan County.

The meeting was held at the Catawba College Center for the Environment.

About three dozen people spoke, including Deborah Graham who claimed she has not been getting any response from Duke Energy when she voices concerns about the water and the coal ash pond near her home.

Duke Energy says that water from the coal ash ponds flows toward the Yadkin River and not uphill towards residents wells, and that the cancer causing chemicals found are naturally occurring.

The state plans to hold 14 of these meetings across the state.

People who were not able to attend the meetings can submit comments to the state by mail at N.C. Division of Water Resources, Groundwater Protection Section, N.C. Department of Environmental Quality, Attn: Debra Watts, 1636 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, N.C. 27699-1611.


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