State Politics

Coal ash lawsuit to claim pollution in Person County

Buxton's Jim Overstreet is among the anglers who find good fishing for largemouth bass on Hyco Lake, a reservoir created to cool the coal power plant in the background.
Buxton's Jim Overstreet is among the anglers who find good fishing for largemouth bass on Hyco Lake, a reservoir created to cool the coal power plant in the background. JAVIER SERNA

An environmental group says Duke Energy is polluting a lake and two river basins with coal ash from its Person County power plant, and gave formal notice Monday that it will sue over the alleged violations.

The utility company disputes those accusations and says the waters are safe.

The Southern Environmental Law Center filed the required 60-day notice under the federal Clean Water Act on behalf of the Roanoke River Basin Association. The litigation organization contends that Lake Hyco and the Dan River and Roanoke River basins near the Roxboro site have been illegally polluted.

Duke Energy treats Hyco and the waterways that flow into it as an unprotected dumping grounds, according to the SELC. The group also says the coal ash stored in unlined lagoons allow pollutants to leach out continuously.

“Duke Energy is treating Hyco Lake like its own waste water lagoon and polluting it with coal ash contaminants,” said Frank Holleman of the SELC. “Hyco Lake is a major recreational asset for the people of North Carolina and should be protected from Duke Energy’s coal ash pollution.”

The utility says SELC is trying to sidestep federal regulations and the state’s coal ash laws, which are in place to determine when and how to safely close all of the coal ash storage basins in the state. This legal action would also duplicate the same issues that are being heard in state court, the company says.

“Hyco Reservoir has good water quality and is home to a thriving fish population,” Duke spokeswoman Erin Culbert said Monday. “We meet strict state permit limits that are designed to protect water quality and the environment.”

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