Mountain Island Lake

N.C. Department of Environmental Quality


  Follow-up tests last week found no arsenic in Mountain Island Lake, according to a report from the state Department of Environmental Quality.  

Tests last month had found arsenic at nearly 10 times federal limits, near where Duke Energy was draining water from coal ash ponds at the Riverbend plant in Mount Holly.  

Coal ash ponds at Riverbend Steam Station in Mount Holly.
David Boraks / WFAE

Duke Energy has stopped draining coal ash ponds into Mountain Island Lake after recent county tests found elevated levels of arsenic in the water. State environmental regulators say they’re investigating whether Duke violated state law.

A judge has allowed environmental groups to join a state lawsuit against Duke Energy over water pollution from coal plants.  The judge granted the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation, which will be represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center, the ability to intervene in the case today, essentially making the organization a second plaintiff. In the lawsuit, the state accuses Duke of allowing coal ash ponds to leak contamination into groundwater, including at the G.G. Allen and Marshall Steam Stations in the Charlotte region.

Duke and Progress Energy will not have to clean up seepages from fourteen coal ash ponds, according to a ruling from the North Carolina Environmental Management Commission.  Several environmental groups including the Riverkeeper Foundation say the utilities are breaking state rules by not stopping their coal ash ponds from leaking into ground water.   

Commission chairman Steve Smith says the vote was 9-to-2 in favor of Duke and Progress.

A Duke University study has found high levels of coal ash contaminants in rivers and lakes downstream from coal-fired power plants. Mountain Island Lake, which provides drinking water to the Charlotte area, is one of the lakes tested that show the highest amounts of arsenic.  

The study tested 11 North Carolina lakes and rivers, and it found smaller ones like Mountain Island had the highest levels of coal ash toxins.