Dozens of protesters chanting “Shame!” outside the Duke Energy Center on Tuesday afternoon demanded that Duke remove the ash stored at its coal-fired power plants.
Leaders of several environmental groups attempted to deliver anti-ash petitions they said were signed by 9,000 people. The petitions asked that Duke pay cleanup costs of its Feb. 2 ash spill into the Dan River without billing customers.
Security guards initially blocked entrances to the building, the groups said, but a Duke representative eventually accepted the petitions.
Duke CEO Lynn Good said last week that customers won’t pay for the cleanup. The company has apologized for the spill of up to 39,000 tons of ash from its retired Dan River power plant in Eden.
“The drinking water has remained safe. The pipe has been permanently plugged. We take responsibility for this event and also are taking another look at the management of our ash basins,” Duke said in a statement.
Amy Adams of Boone-based Appalachian Voices told protesters that’s not enough.
“Duke Energy has defiled the Dan River, and there is no apology that will fix that,” she said. The spill, she added, “was very preventable. It put corporate profit over human health.”
Ash has flowed 70 miles down the Dan River, federal officials say, and is nearly 5 feet deep at the spill site.
A federal grand jury has launched a criminal investigation of the spill, aiming subpoenas at both Duke and its regulator, the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
Gov. Pat McCrory on Tuesday warned Duke that the “state will not stand by” as ash ponds threaten drinking-water supplies.
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