North Carolina regulators say that Duke Energy, the company responsible for dumping 35 million gallons of toxic coal ash waste into the Dan River, is responsible for another 61 million gallon spill into another river. And this time, the company did it on purpose.
The state Department of Environment and Natural Resources said the giant utility, responsible for a massive spill from a different coal ash containment pond Feb. 2, had illegally pumped the ash from two coal ash ponds at its Cape Fear plant in Moncure, N.C., and into a canal that feeds into the Cape Fear River.
Regulators said they caught Duke pumping the toxic ash March 11, one day after an environmental group took aerial photographs of what it said were pumps illegally dumping the waste. Environmental groups have accused the agency of coddling Duke Energy and allowing coal ash waste to seep for years from the utility's 14 coal-fired plants in the state.
The state agency said Duke Energy had been getting away with the dumping by telling regulators it was part of routine maintenance. Regulators said inspectors had determined that 44 million gallons of toxic waste had been pumped from one pond for 78 days, and 17 million gallons pumped from a second pond at the site for 31 days.
“They’ve essentially simulated a terrible coal-ash spill by pumping the pond out,” Peter Harrison, a lawyer for Waterkeeper Alliance, the group that exposed the illegal dumping, told the New York Times.
Duke, a $50 billion corporation, has 30 days to respond to the citation. After that, they could potentially be fined up to $25,000 a day for each violation.