Today, Waterkeeper Alliance and Upper Neuse Riverkeeper are responding to and documenting the breach of a 1.2-billion-gallon cooling pond dam at Duke Energy’s H.F. Lee plant. The breach occurred just minutes after Duke Energy issued a statement claiming that the “Ash basin and cooling pond dams across the state continue to operate safely; in fact, we’ve been pleased with their good performance during the historic flooding Hurricane Matthew brought to eastern North Carolina.”
Pete Harrison, Staff Attorney at Waterkeeper Alliance and Matthew Starr, Upper Neuse Riverkeeper, released the following statement in response to the incident:
“When families are being threatened by some of the worst flooding in North Carolina’s history, they should not also have to worry about Duke Energy’s dams collapsing.
“This failure likely happened because the river has begun to recede, which is when structural problems often develop. Like so many of Duke Energy’s coal ash ponds across the state, the cooling pond at Lee has a long history of structural problems – these are disasters waiting to happen.
“Minutes before the dam collapsed on the cooling pond, Duke Energy issued a statement declaring it was operating safely. Duke continues to claim the dam of a 120-acre coal ash pond at Lee is operating safely, even though the river has only begun to recede. The same ash pond suffered extensive damage after flooding caused by Hurricane Floyd in 1999. We remain very concerned about the integrity of the ash pond dams at Lee as the river recedes over the next week.
“It has been more than two years since the Dan River disaster, and Duke’s coal ash continues to sit behind rickety dams on the banks of flood-prone rivers all across the state. Three ash ponds at the Lee plant, totalling 160 acres, have been completely submerged since Sunday.”
Waterkeeper Alliance and North Carolina Riverkeepers are conducting aerial patrols of the site today. Photos and videos will be uploaded to the organizations’ Flickr page later today.
Waterkeeper Alliance continues to activate its Rapid Response protocol with 13 North Carolina Riverkeeper organizations as they work to document the potentially devastating impacts of flooded coal ash ponds, factory swine, and poultry facilities on the state’s waterways in the wake of Hurricane Matthew.