Duke Energy will need to create a corrective action plan for its coal ash ponds in Indiana after mandatory groundwater testing found the ponds have contaminants at levels higher than groundwater protection standards.
The electric power company on March 1 released its compliance data and reporting on the coal ash ponds at the now shuttered Wabash River Generating Station.
The figures show the ash ponds have high levels of arsenic, cobalt and lead. Coal ash, also known as fly ash, is the waste produced from burning coal and can contain harmful toxins.
The samples were taken from 37 monitoring wells placed at the base of the coal ponds, and weren’t from drinking water wells, said Angeline Protogere, a spokeswoman for the company.
Duke Energy plans to post its corrective action plans in July and hold a public forum to review the plans, she said.
“This is a detailed regulatory process. We will evaluate a range of cleanup methods and technologies that are protective of the environment,” Protogere said.
Cleanup options include excavating ponds or capping the ponds and keeping the ash in place. Both methods require steps to be taken to protect the water quality of nearby rivers or lakes, Protogere said.
Lorrie Heber, director of White Violet Center for Eco-Justice for the Sisters of Providence and chair of a coal ash committee for Wabash Valley Riverscape, said the committee plans to monitor the corrective plan closely.
“This has been of significant concern, as fly ash contains a number of hazardous materials that are harmful to human and other living creatures, so contact with groundwater is problematic and the long-term management of those coal ash ponds if problematic for the long-term health of the river,” Heber said.
This isn’t Duke Energy’s first ash pond issue.
Duke’s ash ponds at the L.V. Sutton Power Station near Wilmington, NC, have had a storied history. The state fined the utility a record $25 million in 2015 for years of groundwater contamination.
In September, 2016, Duke Energy reached a settlement that holds the company accountable for violations related to the 2014 coal ash spill at the Dan River plant in Eden, NC.
The $6 million settlement ended up reached after the utility received a fine of $6.8 million in February in connection with the spill. The utility challenged that fine.
Also, in March, 2016, Duke Energy was on notice from North Carolina it was subject to fines and penalties for improper leaks at coal ash ponds at 12 current and former coal plants.
The violations cited in this round include leaks at Duke’s Allen Steam Station and Marshall Steam Station, both in the Charlotte region. Violations also occurred at Asheville Steam Station, Belews Creek Steam Station, Buck Steam Station, Cape Fear Steam Electric Generating Plant, Cliffside Steam Station, Dan River Combined Cycle Plant, Lee Steam Electric Plant, Mayo Steam Electric Power Plant, Roxboro Steam Electric Plant and Weatherspoon Steam Electric Plant.