Duke Energy cited for deficiencies at Rutherford Co. steam plant

Duke Energy cited for deficiencies at Rutherford Co. steam plant (Image 1)
Duke Energy cited for deficiencies at Rutherford Co. steam plant (Image 1)

Regulators have cited Duke Energy for deficiencies at one of
its coal-burning plants in Rutherford County.

Staff with the state's Dam Safety Program noted deficiencies
at dams at two coal ash ponds at the Cliffside Steam Station when they
inspected the facility on March 1 and March 4.

The N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources
issued Duke Energy notice of deficiency letters for the two dams late Wednesday

DENR's citations for the two dams directed Duke Energy to
make repairs in the following areas:

  • One of the corrugated metal spillway pipes the
    state agency inspected has deteriorated to the point that a Duke representative
    documented increased flow during a routine internal inspection. This issue was
    addressed earlier this week when officials used sandbags, PVC pipe and tanks to
    collect the flow and transport it to an ash pond onsite. Officials are working
    on a permanent solution.
  • A lack of grass cover growing along the crest of
    the dam, which would cause erosion. State officials directed Duke Energy to periodically
    apply seed and appropriate soil amendments to the dam embankment.
  • Inappropriate vegetation such as trees and
    bushes growing on the dam that could lead to internal erosion and cause the dam
    to fail after heavy rainfall. DENR directs Duke Energy to remove this
    vegetation and place grass cover on the dam.

The state considers both of the dams at the Cliffside Steam
Station as “high hazard dams” that could result in significant
environmental damage to the Broad River if a dam failure occurred, the letter

“We are investigating all aspects of the infrastructure
used at these coal ash facilities, including the structural integrity of pipes
and dams in and around the impoundments,” DENR Secretary John Skvarla

“We will take appropriate action to enforce the laws
and protect public health and the environment to prevent another coal ash spill
like the one that happened in Eden.”

Coals ash contains hazardous chemicals including arsenic,
lead and mercury.

DENR has directed Duke Energy to hire a professional
engineer to produce a plan for repairs to the dams within 10 days.

Regulators expressed concern Friday after finding groundwater trickling from a pipe at the Cliffside Steam Station. The pipe drains an emergency storm-water basin built on top of
an old coal ash dump, but is only supposed to drain water in severe

The pipe empties into rocks a few feet
from the Broad River, but the agency said there is no indication the
flow has reached the waterway.

The issue at Cliffside comes about
four weeks after a similar pipe collapsed at Duke's plant in Eden,
coating 70 miles of the Dan River with toxic sludge.

As a result of the Dan River spill, DENR issued two formal
notices to Duke Energy for separate violations of wastewater and stormwater
regulations. And on Monday, DENR announced that Duke Energy had been issued
formal notices of violation at five more power plants for not having needed
storm water permits, which are required to legally discharge rainwater draining
from its power plants into public waterways.

DENR said staff in the state Division of Water Resources
will inspect all permitted and unpermitted discharge points at Duke Energy's 14
coal ash impoundments in North Carolina.

DENR said officials plan to “map and photograph
discharge points at the facilities with coal ash ponds, note the types of
discharges and structural integrity of the pipes and other discharge outfalls,
and collect and start analyzing water samples from all pipes.”

DENR will also request that Duke Energy to provide
regulators with its engineering and emergency action plans for all the
company's facilities with coal ash impoundments.


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