Disciplinary action or election-year posturing?
The state Department of Environment and Natural Resources issued a notice of violation to Duke over the ongoing contamination at the L.V. Sutton Electric Plant in New Hanover County. The site includes a pair of unlined dumps estimated to hold 2.6 million tons of ash.
The state says monitoring wells near Duke's dumps at Sutton showed readings exceeding state groundwater standards for boron, thallium, selenium, iron, manganese and other chemicals. Thallium was used for decades as the active ingredient in rat poison until it was banned because it is so highly toxic.
Make no mistake, Duke Energy should be fined for allowing toxic chemicals to leak from their coal ash impoundments. But considering they will soon be pursuing (and likely be granted) rate increases from the NCUC, whatever fines they do pay for this will be easily recouped from the people. And efforts by DENR to conceal or edit test results calls the timing of this action into question:
The agency refused Tuesday to immediately provide the Associated Press the monitoring reports used as the basis of the enforcement action. Those documents are public records under state law.
"Administrative staff in Raleigh are conducting a final analysis of the data before confirming and making public all of the results," said agency spokesman Jamie Kritzer. "The final data will be used to determine the extent of the violations and any penalties assessed."
Duke spokeswoman Erin Culbert suggested Thursday that some of the chemicals cited by the state, such as iron and manganese, could occur naturally in the soil. She did not specifically address the thallium readings.
It boggles the mind that the "naturally-occurring" argument keeps getting used by Duke Energy and other polluters. To surpass the "safe level" set forward by the state and federal government, concentrations of these toxins are usually hundreds of times higher than what could occur naturally, but they keep throwing this patently misleading information out there. And get away with it, which is even more frustrating.