Residents give emotional testimony at public hearing

State asked for input on power plant permits

by Justin Vick

MOORESVILLE – Beth Henry held up the latest issue of Newsweek, Elaine Powell recalled a lesson from her grandmother and Nancy Allison smeared a cross of ashes across a friend’s forehead.

These were some of the more unique ways residents tried to convince the N.C. Division of Water Quality to ensure Duke Energy doesn’t hurt the water quality within the Catawba River Basin.

The agency held a hearing Tuesday, Oct. 19, to gain input into Duke Energy’s request to continue discharging wastewater from three coal-fired power plants into Lake Norman, Lake Wylie and Mountain Island Lake. The pollution discharge permits include waters from cooling water systems, coal ash ponds and yard sump overflows. Coleen Sullins, the state’s water quality director, will decide to issue, modify or deny the permits within 90 days of Tuesday’s hearing, according to N.C. Division of Water Quality officials.

Environmental groups from the state are calling for the Division of Water Quality to better regulate how much heavy metals are discharged in coal ash wastes, phase out existing coal ash ponds, develop drinking water contingency plans in case of ash pond failures and reduce the impacts of thermal pollution from these three facilities.

Duke Energy contends it has long complied with state and federal environmental standards, noting how the permits it’s seeking are rigorous and any trace metals detected in the water test well below levels recommended by North Carolina water quality standards for its three reservoirs.

Still, representatives from advocacy groups, such as the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation, Clean Water for North Carolina and the Central Piedmont Sierra Club, called for stricter limits on wastewater temperatures and the presence of heavy metals.

Katie Hicks, from Clean Water for North Carolina, said the three permits threaten the quality and quantity of water in the Catawba River Basin due to “toxic coal combustion byproducts” and thermal discharges.

She said thermal discharges have devastating effects on fish and cause water loss through evaporation, which threatens the water supply for downstream communities.

And representatives from the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation and Charlotte-Mecklenburg Stormwater Services said water samples taken in Mountain Island Lake contained high levels of arsenic.

While not as knowledgeable on environmental sciences as the advocacy groups, several residents talked about the importance of maintaining clean water.

Mountain Island resident Elaine Powell told a short story about how her grandmother taught her the importance of water conservation by using a bucket to catch cold water when she ran a bath. Her grandmother used the cold water to grow tomatoes.

Nancy Allison, pastor of Holy Covenant United Church of Christ in Charlotte, smeared a cross of ashes on the forehead of Troutman resident Sally McLester during her remarks.

Allison challenged the N.C. Division of Water Quality to “find the courage to live up to their high calling by protecting God’s creation” in requiring Duke Energy to submit a plan to clean up and close its coal-ash ponds.

And Beth Henry, of Charlotte, held up the latest issue of Newsweek, which features the headline “Liquid Asset – Big business and the race to control the world’s water.”

She also shared what she read recently about climate change, noting that unless the two coal ash basins on Riverbend Steam Stations in Mountain Island Lake are cleaned up, more intense rainfalls could potentially lead to a catastrophe to the water supply.

Did you like this? Share it:

Leave a Reply