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Weak permits allow continued toxic seepage from Duke coal plants—comment by May 5

The NC Division of Water Resources is accepting public comments through May 5 on proposed National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits for Duke Energy’s Riverbend, Allen, and Marshall coal plants!

Riverbend Marshall Allen plants

Locations of the three coal facilities and their discharges along the Catawba River.

Under the Clean Water Act, any facility discharging to a river or stream must have a NPDES permit, and these permits have to be renewed every five years. These are the first NPDES permits for coal-fired power plants in NC to be renewed since the Dan River disaster, so they could set a precedent for other facilities. Yet the draft permits are entirely inadequate, allowing all three facilities to continue leaching toxins into surface and groundwater from coal ash ponds!

The Division acknowledges that seepages requiring long-term action is happening at the coal ash ponds, but they are proposing not to limit these toxic seepages, despite the fact that they are uncontrolled releases, setting a terrible precedent for other Duke coal plants in the state!

The Riverbend plant ceased operations in 2013, but coal ash is still stored there in an impoundment. Riverbend is one of the five plants charged in February with Clean Water Act violations and $102 million in fines for Duke. The new permit adds 12 groundwater seeps to the allowed discharges and will only require Duke to self-monitor the leaks and self-report them to DENR. Riverbend’s wastewater discharge is located just three miles upstream from the main Charlotte water supply intake.

Even the treated discharges coming out of pipes at the Marshall and Allen plants into the Catawba River’s lakes do not have strict enough monitoring or limits for pollutants like arsenic and mercury, and continue to allow thermal “variances” for hot discharges that exceed national temperature standards.

  • Click here for the draft NPDES wastewater permits, factsheets and related documents for these three coal plants.
  • Click here for helpful materials and additional context from the Catawba Riverkeeper.

Written comments will be accepted until May 5, and can be mailed to: NCDENR-Division of Water Resources, Wastewater Permitting Section, 1617 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-1617, or emailed to with the subject line “Wastewater Permit Comments for Coal Ash Ponds.”

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