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Duke Energy Fined for Water Contamination

(CN) - North Carolina regulators slapped Duke Energy with a $25.1 million fine for groundwater contamination at the company's power plant outside the city of Wilmington.

The fine, the largest the state has ever levied for environmental destruction, comes as federal prosecutors continue to pursue an action against the company for its spilling 39,000 tons of toxic coal ash from a power plant on the Dan River, near the Virginia border.

Just last month, the nation's largest utility agreed to pay $102 million to clean up the mess.

According to state officials, water tested near the Sutton plant's coal ash pits revealed high levels of Arsenic, Boron, Iron, Manganese and Thallium.

Thallium was the active ingredient in rat poison in the United States until 1975, when it was banned for such use.

"Today's enforcement action continues the aggressive approach this administration has taken on coal ash," said DENR Secretary Donald van der Vaart.

"In addition to holding the utility accountable for past contamination we have found across the state, we are also moving expeditiously to remove the threat to our waterways and groundwater from coal ash ponds statewide," van der Vaart said.

Tuesday's fine was issued by a "Findings and Decisions and Assessment of Civil Penalties" to Duke Energy Progress from Jay Zimmerman, director of the N.C. Division of Water Resources.

Before Tuesday's action, the state's largest penalty for environmental violations was a $5.6 million fine issued in 1986 to Texas Gulf (now PCS Phosphate) in Aurora, N.C.

Under state law, Duke Energy has 30 days to appeal the fine.


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