Duke Energy Improperly Pumped Coal-Ash Wastewater

Duke Energy Corp., the largest U.S. utility owner, improperly pumped about 61 million gallons (231 million liters) of wastewater from two coal-ash ponds into a tributary of a North Carolina river, state regulators said.

Regulators discovered the violation during a March 11 inspection, part of the state’s review of all Duke coal-ash facilities after the company’s Feb. 2 spill into the Dan River, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources said in a statement yesterday. Duke had been pumping the wastewater from the plant into a tributary of the Cape Fear River since September. Fines could reach $25,000 a day.

“We were notified by phone in August that Duke Energy intended to conduct routine maintenance work at these ash ponds,” Tom Reeder, director of the North Carolina Division of Water Resources, said in the statement. “The pumping activities ongoing at this plant far exceeded what would reasonably be considered routine maintenance.”

Duke is still cleaning up a 39,000-ton spill of ash last month from a retired coal-fired power plant near Eden, North Carolina. The federal government has subpoenaed state and company officials as it investigates the spill and North Carolina’s oversight of the company. The state warned the Charlotte, North Carolina-based company on March 14 it may demand removal of coal ash from ponds at two other plants to prevent more spills.

River samples taken downstream of the Cape Fear plant are being tested for quality, the state said yesterday. No municipalities downstream of the facility reported problems meeting federal drinking water standards.

The company said yesterday that discharges were monitored according to the plant’s permit and the ponds were lowered to perform maintenance.

Duke declined 0.1 percent to $69.08 at the close in New York. The shares have climbed 0.1 percent this year.

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