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Groups threaten Duke Energy with lawsuit over coal ash

Three environmental groups have notified Duke Energy Progress, which serves the eastern Carolinas, that they intend to sue the utility over coal ash-related contamination from the Sutton power plant near Wilmington.

The groups blame Duke’s ash ponds for contaminating Sutton Lake, a state-managed fishing lake, and groundwater.

They say the lake is contaminated by selenium, an ash element that can cause reproductive problems in fish and wildlife. Contaminated groundwater, they claim, threatens the water supply of a low-income community.

Duke said it has complied with its water-discharge permits and has “no indications that operations at the Sutton Plant have had any adverse impact on neighboring drinking water supplies.” Fish in Sutton Lake test within safe limits for selenium and mercury, it said.

Natural gas-fueled units will replace the coal units late this year and the plant’s ash ponds will be closed, Duke said.

The Southern Environmental Law Center filed the notice, which is required under the Clean Water Act, on behalf of Cape Fear River Watch, the Waterkeeper Alliance and the Sierra Club.

The law center has filed similar notices over ash at two other Duke Energy plants, Riverbend near Charlotte and a plant near Asheville. The N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources later filed lawsuits claiming pollution from ash at both plants.

Last week, the law center filed a separate suit in federal court over Riverbend’s ash.

Henderson: 704-358-5051 Twitter: @bhender
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