Article Courtesy of Angie Newsme|Carolina Public Press|October 13, 2014|Shared as Educational Material
RALEIGH – Duke Energy officials have identified 830 private and public drinking water supply wells near the company’s 32 coal ash storage ponds in North Carolina, according to an initial survey the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources released on Friday.
Duke Energy conducted the survey to meet a requirement of the Coal Ash Management Act, which recently became state law.
“Making sure that clean drinking water is available to all North Carolinians is the most important job we do,” said Tom Reeder, director of the N.C. Division of Water Resources. “The drinking water well surveys and associated testing help to protect the health of our citizens and their communities.”
The Coal Ash Management Act required Duke Energy to survey all drinking water supply wells that are within a half mile and down-gradient of the established compliance boundary for the state’s 32 coal ash impoundments. Since the direction of groundwater flow has not been fully established in each case, DENR required Duke Energy to include all potential drinking water receptors within a half mile of the compliance boundaries in all directions.
The survey identifies the known public and private drinking water supply wells, recorded private water supply wells, and those households where a private water supply well is assumed to exist but has not yet been verified. The number of identified wells within a half mile of the compliance boundary varies greatly from one facility to the next. The Allen Steam Station in Gaston County, for instance, has the largest number with 201 wells identified or assumed to exist. The Dan River Steam Station in Eden, the site of the Feb. 2 coal ash spill, has the fewest number of wells with only two within a half mile radius of the compliance boundary.
The receptor survey for each of Duke Energy’s 14 facilities is available on the state Division of Water Resources’ website at: http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/wq/drinking-water-receptor-surveys.
DENR staff members are reviewing the surveys to determine which wells should be sampled first, and how frequently and how long sampling should continue. The determination will be completed based on the hydrologic potential for impacts to the drinking water wells. The sampling plan can be amended as additional information is gathered about the flow of groundwater and the extent of any detected contamination. While the law requires Duke Energy to be responsible for the sampling, property owners can choose independent, third-parties to conduct the sampling and analysis. The third-party must be selected from a laboratory certified by DENR. Duke Energy is required to pay the reasonable costs of sampling conducted by third parties hired by individual property owners.
If well water sampling and analysis indicates that water from a drinking water supply well exceeds groundwater standards for constituents associated with the presence of the coal ash impoundment, Duke Energy would be required to supply an alternative source of safe drinking water within 24 hours and an alternative source of water safe for other household uses within 30 days. For instance, DENR required Duke Energy in October 2013 to provide alternative water to a home near the company’s Asheville coal ash ponds after tests revealed the home’s private well contained unsafe levels of contamination.
The department is also evaluating the draft groundwater assessment plans Duke Energy submitted last month. Those assessment plans are aimed at identifying the location, length, breadth and depth of any contamination extending beyond each facility’s compliance boundaries. The plans are on the Division of Water Resources website at: http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/wq//coal_ash_gw_assessment_plans.