GASTON COUNTY, NC (WBTV) - Nine people living near Duke Energy power plants have filed a class action lawsuit against the company over coal ash.
The lawsuit, filed Wednesday, states that the families were sent letters from Duke offering money in exchange for giving up any future legal claims related to coal ash and contaminated well water.
The plants and their neighbors mentioned in the lawsuit include the Allen Plant in Gaston County, the Buck Plant in Rowan County, the Marshall Plant in Catawba County, the Cliffside Plant in Cleveland County and five other plants across North Carolina.
In early December 2016, Duke issued a press release stating the company would be giving a "financial supplement" and permanent water replacement to neighbors whose water supply had been affected by coal ash.
"Duke's formal press release dated December 7, 2016 failed to include any mention of a release of liability. Rather, it touted that the utility would be '[o]ffering eligible property owners a connection to a public water supply and/or installation of whole-home water filter systems' for 'about 950 eligible households,'" the lawsuit states.
The lawsuit states that on January 13, The NC Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) approved the plans for supplying neighbors with a permanent water replacement. It was only after that approval and into January and February, the lawsuit states, that homeowners learned Duke was "requiring execution of a release that would mean residents would give up their right to sue Duke over coal ash claims anytime in the future" for the financial supplement agreement.
The handout, mailed to those families in late January, "still did not state the actual language of the release," according to the lawsuit. It wasn't until late July that they received the final language of the supplement agreement.
The final page of that agreement states:
The lawsuit alleges that instead of giving residents the promised "peace of mind," the language made neighbors "more concerned than ever."
"Duke after insisting its coal ash waste was safe, now wanted a broad release of any claims of contamination, harm or loss, based on what the homeowners 'alleged' when they had not even sued," the lawsuit states.
The plaintiffs are asking for Duke to perform the financial supplement with the release term stricken.
Duke sent a statement regarding the lawsuit Wednesday afternoon.