Coal Ash Contamination Action
Following the Dan River Coal spill in the winter of 2014 the Roanoke River Basin Association took immediate action to participate by monitoring, advising and involvement in the efforts to clean-up and mitigate the impact of Dan River Spill. Additionally we began to advocate for the prevention of future coal ash spills in all the waters of the Basin by supporting efforts aimed at elimination of unlined storage of coal ash in and around Basin Rivers, specifically sites at Lake Mayo, Hyco Lake at Roxboro, and Belews Creek. Contamination and spills at these lakes would seriously damage both ground water and surface water of tributaries that flow into main rivers and lakes in the Roanoke River Basin.
To this end, in May 2014 we intervened in a law suit filed by NC DENR against Duke Energy by which the court allowed us as a public citizen’s group to join the case as a plaintiff with full rights of participation in the suit to enforce the law against Duke Energy at the Dan River site. We have been working to secure a binding commitment to ensure a full cleanup of the Dan River site and removal of the ash to safer dry, lined storage away from public water supplies. In October 2014, we also moved to intervene in the enforcement actions as to the Mayo and Roxboro sites within the Roanoke basin, and that motion has been granted with full rights of participation as well. Our attorneys at the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) have served Duke and DENR with discovery requests on those two sites to obtain documents and deposition testimony to ensure vigorous enforcement in the state action and develop any additional federal claims arising from Duke’s coal ash pollution and risks to the lakes and rivers where these coal ash lagoons are located.
Since then the SELC has been extremely active in accomplishing and representing us in the following areas:
1) Winning a court victory that will result in a binding, court-ordered cleanup of the Dan River site as well as six other sites across North Carolina.
2) Commissioning expert reports on the Mayo and Roxboro sites to strengthen our enforcement cases.
3) Advocating for cleanups at Mayo and Roxboro in the coal ash prioritization process established by the N.C. Coal Ash Management Act by drafting comments for RRBA, participating in public hearings, organizing and drafting action alerts with other partner groups.
4) Taking depositions and obtaining internal documents from Duke and DENR (now called DEQ) as part of the discovery process, and obtaining additional documents from federal agencies through FOIA requests.
5) Drafting opinion pieces and letters to the editor to spread the word and advocate for cleanups at these sites.
Lastly, even though SELC is representing us pro bono, we may have substantial financial expenses in this matter. Therefore, we are asking you to join us in this campaign to defend our rivers and lakes. Please become a member of Roanoke River Basin Association, and donate as much as you feel appropriate. We are a 501 C ( 3) organization, and you can easily join us and/or donate on our website. If any you are already a member, thank you for your ongoing support any financial help you can give at this crucial time.
By: Gene Addesso, President Emeritus, RRBA, 3/21/16