State renews Riverbend permit

by Andrew Batten

The state has approved permit renewals for three Duke Energy coal-fired power plants including the Riverbend Steam Station on Mountain Island Lake.

Those permits allow Duke to discharge treated wastewater into the Catawba River.

Catawba Riverkeeper David Merryman said it was incredible that the state was still allowing Duke to release heavy metals into the Catawba River.

“This is outrageous,” he said. “Despite public input and outcry, the state still plans to allow the unlimited release of arsenic, mercury and selenium into our drinking water supply.

The two other permits are for Duke’s Marshall Steam Station in Catawba County and the and Allen Steam Station in Gaston County.

The state made the following changes to final permits after an October public hearing:

• Quarterly monitoring for mercury was added to outfall from the coal ash ponds at the Riverbend Steam Station. This will establish a monitoring plan for mercury, selenium and arsenic for all three permits.

• Fish tissue monitoring for all three permits.

• Semi-annual in-stream monitoring was added for arsenic, selenium, mercury, chromium, lead, cadmium, copper and zinc. The monitoring is to occur upstream and downstream of ash pond outfalls at all three facilities.

• Liquid coal ash storage structures shall meet the dam design and safety requirements according to the state administrative code.

• Duke Energy must submit to the state an ash pond closure plan for the Riverbend plant at least one year before closure. The Riverbend facility is expected to close in 2015.

All three permits include requirements to install groundwater monitoring wells and to ensure compliance with groundwater standards.

“I am pleased to see that these final permits incorporated some of the comments and recommendations suggested by the public, but the Division of Water Quality must protect our water’s quality,” Merryman said in a news release.

“We’ve already learned that our fish are contaminated with PCBs; you can’t keep pumping toxic heavy metals into the River, too. The costs of removing these poisons should not be passed along to the water drinkers of Charlotte-Mecklenburg, Gastonia, East Lincoln County, Mount Holly, Rock Hill, and Mooresville.”

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