MOUNTAIN ISLAND LAKE, N.C. -- The Catawba Riverkeeper has told NBC Charlotte that leaks have been discovered at Mountain Island Lake and Lake Wylie that are allowing a substance to seep out of coal ash ponds.
"It's not good," said Riverkeeper Rick Gaskins.
Gaskins said the seepage is coming from coal ash ponds at Duke Energy's Riverbend Plant at Mountain Island Lake and the Allen Steam Station at Lake Wylie.
When coal is burned, the ash left behind is stored in ash ponds. Gaskins said the substance that his group tested was the substance that was discovered.
"We found contaminants that are typically associated with coal ash like barium, chromium and lead," he said. "This is hazardous or toxic substances getting into our drinking water reservoirs."
Asked for a response to the Riverkeeper's claims, Duke Energy spokesperson Erin Culbert said, "Seepage is a normal function of a healthy engineered dam." She added that the company was very confident that drinking water supplies are safe.
Mountain Island Lake is the primary source of drinking water for approximately 860,000 people in the greater Charlotte area.
Culbert said that whatever seepage there is, it is extremely small and could be measured in parts per billion.
Gaskins said water filtration systems insure the water is safe to drink but he cautioned, "I think it is an indication of a bigger problem."
Gaskins said the North Carolina Department of Natural Resources and the Federal Environmental Protection Agency have been notified about the apparent leaks.