DEQ investigating new water leak from Duke coal ash basin - | WBTV Charlotte

DEQ investigating new water leak from Duke coal ash basin

Allen Corrugated Metal Pipe (Source: Nick Ochsner) Allen Corrugated Metal Pipe (Source: Nick Ochsner)
Allen Steam Station, Belmont (WBTV Photo) Allen Steam Station, Belmont (WBTV Photo)

The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality is investigating a newly-discovered leak from a corrugated metal pipe connected to a coal ash basin at the Allen Steam Station.
The department’s investigation began after Duke Energy notified regulators of the leak on Wednesday.
In its letter to DEQ, the company said it discovered  “minor drainage (flow was approximately 0.3 L/min) from a 24-inch corrugated metal pipe (CMP) along the Catawba River bank.”
Duke officials discovered the leak during a site visit with the Catawba Riverkeeper and other environmental watchdogs that was conducted last week as part of an ongoing lawsuit in state court.

The pipe is connected to a decommissioned coal ash basin that has been dewatered and closed, the company told regulators.

Erin Culbert, a spokeswoman for Duke Energy, told On Your Side Investigates the amount of water found to be leaking from the pipe amounted to roughly a coffee-cup size leak every minute.

Culbert said the pipe was inspected twice in 2016, most recently as part of a required seeps inspection this fall, either in October or November. Inspectors did not find any water discharge during the fall inspection, she said.
In its letter to regulators, the company said it had tested samples of the water leaking from the pipe and found elevated levels of boron consistent with groundwater samples at the plant. The letter notes there is no state surface water standard for boron but the company said the leaking water met state surface water standards.
A spokesman for DEQ said the agency was investigating the new leak.
“We’re awaiting the analytical data from sampling and will evaluate the results to determine if there are any water quality violations,” spokesman Mike Rusher said. “The utility has notified the department of its plans to repair the pipe and eliminate the discharge.”
Culbert said work is currently underway to cap the end of the pipe to prevent any additional water from leaking.

But Sam Perkins, the Catawba Riverkeeper who first alerted Duke employees to the pipe during last week’s site visit, said his concern was not as much with the water leak as with the pipe itself.

“This was a corrugated metal pipe that took us 20 minutes to find but the Duke personnel didn’t know what it was, they didn’t have a record of it,” Perkins said. “This is a pipe that is not in any of their records in their storm water permitting or their waste water permitting.”

Perkins said the type of pipe and conditions under which it was left largely unmonitored as part of a decommissioned coal ash facility are similar to the pipe at the heart of the Dan River coal ash spill in February 2014.

“This is a pipe that should have been noted and, if there were any diligence, addressed and inspected,” Perkins said, noting this is the second time in recent months he’s found a pipe with discharge that had previously not been documented.

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