(CN) – A group of North Carolina environmentalists sued the nation’s largest utility over its plan to continue to store coal ash in an unlined area at its Mayo Steam Electric coal-fired plant.
In a complaint filed Tuesday in the Middle District of North Carolina, the Roanoke River Basin Association claims Duke Energy’s closure plan for its ash basin violates the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act and other environmental regulations and will allow dangerous pollutants, including arsenic and manganese, to leach into the region’s waters.
As described in the lawsuit, which was filed on the group’s behalf by the Southern Environmental Law Center, the plan calls for leaving millions of tons of coal ask in an unlined pit that sits partly below the groundwater level.
“Under Duke Energy’s closure plan set out in its [coal combustion residuals] rule filing, the coal ash will be sitting in groundwater and will continue to leach pollutants into the groundwater and into Crutchfield Branch and elsewhere,” the complaint says.
“This coal ash will remain saturated, allowing pollutants to leach out indefinitely, and will remain impounded behind the unlined ash pond dam under the closure plan,” it adds.
The association contends that under the federal law, the coal ask must either be removed from the site or capped.
Without one or the other of those steps taking place, “A significant amount of groundwater will continue to infiltrate the ash basin,” the complaint says.
The association is represented by Frank Holleman III, Nicholas S. Torrey and Leslie Griffith of Southern Environmental Law Center.