Coal ash pits at Duke’s 14 power plants have already contaminated groundwater, and just last Friday (March 4), DEQ issued notices of violation to Duke for allowing coal ash wastewater to leak from its pits at 12 power plants across the state. Unfortunately, NC’s Coal Ash Management Act (CAMA), which creates requirements and timelines for the closure of coal ash pits, allows Duke to put a cap on pits that receive a “low-risk” rating. Duke could leave coal ash where it is, threatening groundwater, presumably forever.
DEQ failed to determine draft ratings for ash pits at six of Duke’s facilities by its December 31, 2015 deadline: Rogers (formerly Cliffside), Roxboro, Allen, Buck, Belews Creek, and Marshall. Instead, the agency rated coal ash pits at these sites as “low-to-intermediate.” Coal ash pits at these sites will eventually receive a rating of either “low” or “intermediate” risk. DEQ says that public comments will influence its decisions, and that even ratings of “intermediate” and “low” risk are subject to change based on public input.
Okay, I'm glad to see DEQ's interest in public feedback. That being said, classifying the risk levels of coal ash ponds based on subjectivity (the number of people who show up and their personal opinions) is just one more deviation from scientific analysis. And it provides the cover for DEQ to conclude whatever the hell they feel like. Nearly all of these sites in question just got spanked for leaking, so the question of risk has already been answered by DWQ: