Sixty-one million gallons: that’s the amount of untreated wastewater from coal ash ponds that state regulators estimate poured into a tributary of the Cape Fear River.
State regulators have issued a citation to Duke Energy for violating its wastewater permit in Chatham County.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources is required to give the nation’s largest electric utility 30 days to respond to the notice of violation.
In the meantime, Cape Fear Riverkeeper Kemp Burdette says he’s worried about the implications.
"There’s been no notification of the towns downstream that get their drinking water from the Cape Fear River – including Wilmington. We are a ways downstream. We are at the other end of the Cape Fear River. But, nonetheless, what goes in the river upstream will make its way downstream… I’m worried about the impact on the environment, on the ecosystem in and around the river."
It was aerial photos taken by officials with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources along with a March 11th inspection that alerted regulators to the alleged illegal pumping.
A spokesman for DENR says Duke Energy called the activity routine maintenance. DENR officials, however, say the sheer volume looks more like illegal bypass.
No downstream municipalities have reported problems meeting EPA drinking water standards. However, officials are collecting water samples downstream of the plant. No word yet on what civil penalties could be levied against Duke.
Duke Energy did not return calls for comment by deadline for this story.