Last day to request public hearing on high-hazard coal ash ponds

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Yesterday, I had the privilege of listening to Rusty Rozzelle, manager of the county's Water Quality Program and Land Use and Environmental Services Agency, detail the history of the Catawba River at the Catawba River Women's Group's monthly luncheon. And, he should know — his family has relied on, benefited from and cared for the river since the 1700s.

"This river has always been important to us," he said. "It always will be important to us."

Without the Catawba River there would be no Charlotte. Further, should the Catawba River become unusable, Charlotte will vanish from the map.

"Without the Catawba River," Rozzelle said, "we would all have to leave. We couldn't stay here ... it's that important."

"Our surface water resources have shaped our past, sustain us in the present and will dictate our future," he added later.

That's why I'd like to remind you that today is the last day to request a public hearing on the four coal ash ponds in the Charlotte area, all found on the banks of the Catawba River's lakes.

Two of them, categorized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as "high-hazard," sit on the edge of Mountain Island Lake, just a dozen miles from the center of Uptown. That lake provides most of Charlotte's drinking water. It is critical that we preserve it for our health, and the health of future generations.

Here's a copy of the letter I sent on behalf of our river and Mountain Island Lake today. Feel free to copy it — changing my name to yours —and e-mail it to sergei.chernikov@ncdenr.gov:

Surface Water Protection Section

Point Source Branch

Sergei Chernikov

1617 Mail Service Center

Raleigh, NC 27699-1617

RE: DRAFT PERMIT NC0004961 for RIVERBEND STEAM STATION

Dear Division of Water Quality,

My name is Rhiannon Bowman and I live in the Catawba River basin.

I am very concerned about Mountain Island Lake, Charlotte’s main drinking water source. In fact, not only does it provide drinking water for Charlotte, but several other nearby communities. We must do everything within our power to protect this valuable resource.

With that ideal in mind, I have reviewed draft permit NC0004961 and believe this permit should include a requirement for Duke Energy of the Carolinas to submit a plan to NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources that outlines a clean-up, lining and closure timeline for the two coal ash ponds currently discharging under this permit at Outfall 02.

Additionally, this permit should contain a reopener provision to allow the Department to modify the permit to incorporate any new court decision, guidance document, regulation, or statute on the designation, management, storage and use of coal combustion residuals, also known as coal ash wastes.

Moreover, metals currently monitored in this permit (arsenic and selenium) should have concentrations limits that reflect the fresh surface water quality standards for Mtn. Island Lake (WS-IV; CA). An Arsenic concentration limit of 10 ?g/L (ppb) and a Selenium concentration limit of 5 ?g/L should be added to this permit. As importantly, these substances should be more frequently monitored – at least monthly – and other chemicals and elements found in coal ash should be added to the monitoring list. These metals include but are not limited to boron, barium, cadmium, chlorides, chromium, lead, manganese, mercury, nickel, silver and zinc.

Iron, Manganese and Boron in the ash ponds should be monitored monthly because initial groundwater monitoring samples taken in December 2008 and again in December 2009 showed groundwater levels that exceed current state groundwater standards found under 15A NCAC 2L .0200.

Conversely, total suspended solids (TSS) monitoring should NOT be decreased from 2/month to monthly. Instead, total dissolved solids (TDS) 2/month monitoring should be added to this permit and limited to the NC fresh surface water quality standards (500mg/L) within this permit. TDS is recognized by EPA Steam Electric Power Study as a typical frequently observed coal combustion wastewater pollutant.

I would also like to request a public hearing to help our community better understand, and ask questions about, draft permit NC0004961 for Riverbend Steam Station.

Respectfully submitted,

Rhiannon Bowman

(Change my name to yours and be sure to include your mailing address.)

I mailed similar letters on behalf of Lake Norman and Lake Wylie, both of which also have coal ash ponds on their shores.

You'll notice that, after reading through the draft permits for the coal plants that own the ponds, I used our Catawba Riverkeeper's suggestions when drafting my letter.

You, too, can review the draft permits — aka permission slips to pollute — as well as the Riverkeeper's suggestions here.

Be sure to request a public hearing so we can all learn more about what's being done about these waste dumps and ask questions about what's being done to protect our drinking water. Also be sure to copy David Merryman, our Catawba Riverkeeper, on your e-mail so he can keep up with how many people have requested public hearings. His e-mail address is david@catawbariverkeeper.org.

And, let me repeat: This is our water. It is critical that we protect it for our health and for future generations. Without it, Charlotte vanishes.

On June 10 I will present additional information about the coal ash ponds on Mountain Island Lake at Type/Face. Learn more and purchase tickets here.

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