Groundwater contaminated at Duke Energy’s Asheville power plant

North Carolina’s environmental agency cited Duke Energy on Wednesday for coal ash contamination of groundwater at its Asheville power plant.

The notice of violation, which could lead to state fines, said the company broke groundwater standards for 12 constituents. Among them are the potentially toxic metals arsenic, chromium and thallium.

The notice does not cite the concentrations of pollutants found in the groundwater.

Company spokeswoman Paige Sheehan noted that Duke has supplied groundwater readings to the Department of Environment and Natural Resources for several years. She said the company isn’t aware of having caused health problems.

Under state legislation that became law in September, Duke is doing further tests of groundwater contamination and flows at each of its 14 coal-fired power plants in the state.

“In the long term, we’re closing (ash) basins and in the short term we’re doing everything DENR asks us to do,” to assess problems, Sheehan said.

Duke reported to the state last October that no private wells lie in the direction of groundwater flow from the ash ponds at the Asheville plant. Two wells might be within an area of uncertain groundwater flow, Duke reported.

In 2013, tests of five private wells near the plant found iron and manganese above state drinking-water standards. The state ordered Duke to supply bottled water to one home and the company said it is voluntarily supplying water to a second home.

DENR also cited Duke’s Sutton power plant in Wilmington last August for contaminating groundwater. No fine has been issued.

Duke agreed in 2013 to pay up to $1.8 million for a water line to a low-income community in the path of groundwater contamination from the Sutton plant. A local water authority agreed to avoid tapping groundwater again in an area near the plant that is estimated to cover 17 square miles.

Duke has 30 days in which to respond to Wednesday’s notice of violation. Continuous failure to act could result in fines of up to $25,000 a day, the state told Duke.

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