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Sierra Club Statement on the Proposed Water Discharge Permit for the Retired Sutton Coal Plant


This evening, The N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources held a public hearing on the water discharge permit for Duke Energy’s retired Sutton coal plant.

Duke Energy will excavate 7.2 million tons of coal ash from its unlined, leaking Sutton coal ash lagoons near Wilmington and move the ash to dry, lined storage to comply with a state law requiring the utility to clean up the coal ash at Sutton. The Sutton coal ash lagoons have been polluting Sutton Lake and leaking toxic substances into the groundwater for years.

Kelly Martin, Campaign Representative for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign, issued the following statement after the hearing:

“DENR’s draft permit fails to protect Sutton Lake when Duke Energy’s coal ash lagoons are finally drained.

“Sutton Lake is a popular public recreation lake where people fish to feed their families, yet the permit only requires quarterly monitoring for these pollutants—which means the coal ash lagoons could be drained into the lake between monitoring periods with no enforcement of pollutant limits.

“Daily pollutant monitoring is needed to protect the lake while the lagoons are emptied, and daily monitoring is also needed to enforce the daily limits on wastewater pumped from the coal ash lagoons into the Cape Fear River. Simply testing once every three months is not adequate to protect the public resource of Sutton Lake and the communities who depend on it.

“For the same reasons, tighter pollutant limits are needed for pumping out the lagoons into Sutton Lake, to match the limits set for pumping into the Cape Fear River.”


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