Updated 6:11 p.m.
State environmental officials have given preliminary approval to Duke Energy's plans for providing alternate water supplies to neighbors of coal ash dumps around the state. Meanwhile, the company says it will offer one-time $5,000 payments, water bill stipends and other assistance to homeowners near coal sites.
The state's coal-ash cleanup law as revised last year requires Duke to provide municipal water lines or water filtration systems to households with wells within a half-mile of coal ash sites. That includes the Allen Steam Station in Gaston County, the Buck Steam Station in Salisbury, and Marshall on Lake Norman. No homes near the Riverbend plant in Gaston County are affected.
Duke submitted its plans and notified about 1,000 homeowners in December, as required by the law.
The state Division of Water Resources says the utility will get final approval when it shows the water is safe.
Eligible property owners will be notified by April 15. Duke has to complete the work by Oct. 15, 2018.
Duke is providing the water supplies even though it denies responsibility. While tests have found some contamination, Duke says coal ash isn’t the cause, and that studies show the contaminants in coal ash are found naturally in North Carolina.
In a press release Friday afternoon, Duke North Carolina president David Fountain said Duke recognizes neighbors' uncertainty about their water supplies. "That’s why we voluntarily provided bottled water, supported the legislation to offer neighbors a new, permanent water supply and are now adding a goodwill financial supplement," Fountain said.
"At the same time, the body of evidence continues to grow, demonstrating that ash basins are not impacting well water quality,” he said.
The announcement outlined details of what Duke says is a "one-time financial supplement" for property owners facing the disturbance of water line construction, maintenance and the new cost of monthly water bills.
Duke said shareholders will pay for the costs of the program. The program includes:
- A $5,000 per property "goodwill payment."
- A "property value protection plan." Duke says: "If a homeowner sells his or her property (or is under contract to sell) before Oct. 15, 2019, and does not receive fair market value, Duke Energy will cover the difference in price."
- A stipend of $8,000 to $22,000, depending on water rates, to cover 25 years of monthly water bills.
If homeowners choose a water filtration system, Duke will pay the estimated $10,000 installation cost, plus long-term maintenance.
Duke said it plans mailings and information sessions for homeowners in the coming weeks.
Duke information page on the program, duke-energy.com/WaterPlans.
Jan. 13, 2017, letter from DEQ to Duke Energy.
Duke Energy plans for providing permanent water supplies, as submitted to DEQ.