When we were told that we couldn’t drink our water, we instantly felt shocked. What we experience everyday is something that no family should have to go through. Yet hundreds of families right here in North Carolina who live near Duke Energy’s coal ash pits live in fear and uncertainty about something as basic as access to clean drinking water.
We are two friends brought together by this fear. Deborah lives near Salisbury and less than 1,000 feet from a coal ash pit. Amy lives in Belmont, also less than 1,000 feet from one of Duke Energy’s toxic coal ash pits. In April 2015, we received letters telling us that our water was not safe to drink. About a year later we got another letter saying the water was safe to drink, despite no further testing having been done on our wells. The hexavalent chromium and vanadium are still in our water. Yet, Gov. Pat McCrory’s administration has decided that the poisons in our water are an acceptable risk for our families.
Every day we face uncertainty, but we shouldn’t have to fear our water. We expect our elected officials to make the tough decisions to protect the public. To date, Gov. McCrory has failed us and all of the other families near coal ash pits. But he still has a chance to protect our families by committing to fully cleaning up all coal ash sites.
Last week, the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) issued its classifications for every coal ash pit in the state. However, the McCrory administration continues to leave us with doubts and ask for loopholes to accommodate Duke Energy. DEQ requested that the legislature change the law to allow the agency to revisit the classifications in 18 months, well after November’s election. So even though all of the pits have been deemed too risky to leave in place, DEQ wants the right to go back and rate them as low risk anyway, giving Duke the option to leave the coal ash in place and cover it. It’s called “cap in place” and it is not an option that will stop the toxic chemicals from polluting drinking water supplies.
Like most families in North Carolina, our home is a sacred place. This is where we raise our families, share holidays, and invested money in our property. But there’s little chance we could sell our homes now if we wanted to. And ever since we were notified about our water being unsafe to drink, our homes are not a place of enjoyment any more.
Again, we aren’t the only ones facing these problems. Every single one of Duke Energy’s coal ash pits is polluting groundwater. For decades now Duke Energy has dumped the waste from making electricity into unlined holes in the ground that continue to leak. That’s just the way it’s always been done. Maybe they didn’t know that it would contaminate people’s drinking water. But they know now. And it’s like we tell our children: Once you know better, you do better.
Most North Carolinians don’t have to worry about cancer causing chemicals in their drinking water. And they shouldn’t have to. We shouldn’t either. When you remove the threat, there is nothing left to fear. That’s why the Department of Environmental Quality should not be allowed to change its mind about requiring a full clean-up at every coal ash site in the state. There should not be any more loopholes in favor of Duke Energy at the expense of our families. We all know that the right thing to do is to clean up these toxic, unlined, leaking coal ash sites. We know, Governor. Now we know.
gmail.com) lives near Duke Energy’s Buck Steam Plant. Brown (amyrbrown12@
yahoo.com) lives near Duke’s Allen Steam Plant.