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Coal ash disaster exposes problem with N.C. permits

RALEIGH, N.C. — North Carolina regulators have cited five more Duke Energy power plants for lacking required storm water permits after a massive spill at one of the company’s coal ash dumps coated 70 miles of the Dan River in toxic sludge.

The state Department of Environment and Natural Resources said Monday that Charlotte-based Duke had been issued formal notices of violation for not having the needed permits, which are required to legally discharge rainwater draining from its plants into public waterways.

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Two other violations were issued Friday against the Dan River Steam Station in Eden, site of the Feb. 2 spill.

The company could face hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines for the violations.

State regulators indicated they had been aware since at least 2011 that some Duke facilities lacked the required storm water permits, yet took no enforcement action until after last month’s disaster.

Such a permit may have required testing and inspections that could have given early warning something was wrong with the pipe running under the huge coal ash dump at Eden before it collapsed.

Tests performed on the water draining from a nearby pipe after the spill showed high concentrations of arsenic, an indicator that contaminated groundwater was leaking from the dump above.

The violations were issued three days after The Associated Press filed a public records request for a copy of Duke’s storm water permit for the Dan River plant.

The agency responded that no such permit existed.

Duke Energy did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Monday.

The five new violations were issued against Belews Creek Steam Station in Rockingham County, Cliffside Steam Station in Rutherford County, Lee Steam Electric Plant in Wayne County, Roxboro Steam Electric Power Plant in Person County, and Sutton Steam Electric Plant in New Hanover County.

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