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Environmental Groups Ask Indiana To Reject Duke Energy Plan

Posted On August 10, 2017

By Veronica Carter, Indiana News Service

(Indianapolis, Ind.) – Duke Energy has a plan to dispose of millions of gallons of coal ash waste, but environmental groups are asking policy makers to reject it, saying it poses a health hazard.

Indiana is requiring Duke to prepare closure plans for 20 coal ash lagoons, many of which are leaking and are in the Wabash and Ohio River floodplains. These lagoons aren’t lined, and Duke’s plan proposes that they be “capped in place,” which the company calls a clean closure.

But Earthjustice attorney Jenny Cassel said there would be no barrier between the ash and the shallow aquifers that adjoin the rivers. She called that a prescription for pollution, just as Duke experienced in North Carolina in 2014 when the utility caused a massive spill of coal ash wastewater into a 70-mile stretch of the Dan River.

“Folks saw what happens when you leave unstable, dirty leaching ash ponds right next to a river,” Cassel said. “They saw exactly what the threat of that is, and decided that they weren’t going to stand for it in North Carolina. And I think we need to absolutely do the same thing in Indiana.”

Cassel said one option preferable to Duke’s “cap in place” plan is to excavate the ash and transfer it to dry, lined landfills away from streams and rivers. Duke is already doing that at plants in both North and South Carolina but has not proposed it for the Hoosier State.

The Indiana Department of Environmental Management will consider Duke’s plan within the next couple of months.

Waterkeeper Alliance attorney Pete Harrison said Duke should have learned from its mistakes, but instead the company wants to drain the coal ash ponds and walk away while the toxic waste sits beneath the state’s water tables. He said it will endanger people, fish and the rivers for decades to come.

“It comes down to a question of Duke Energy’s attempts to pinch pennies and help its bottom line,” Harrison said. “But, you know, our position is, let’s get it right now and deal with this, so we’re not dealing with it for the next ten, 20, 30, 100 years.”

Cassel sad the state should require safer technology.

“They can’t let it stand that Duke would plan to just throw some dirt and potentially a liner on the top of the ash that’s sitting in the water table, soaking wet – that they’re not going to stand for their water to be polluted here in Indiana,” she said.

Cassel and Harrison both said keeping toxic ash away from water is the only proven way to prevent contamination.

More information is available here.