The French Broad Riverkeeper detected high levels of arsenic in a water sample of wastewater leaking from the Cliffside Steam Station operated by Duke Energy on the Broad River.
Riverkeeper Hartwell Carson tested the water in a variety of locations along the Cliffside property at the Broad River on March 10. This week he reported arsenic at “25 times” the EPA drinking water standard in one seep just downstream from the spillway and near a retired coal ash pond which has dried out.
“Just in itself discharging any pollution without a permit is a violation of the Federal Clean Water Act,” said Carson. “But certainly the levels of heavy metals is even more concerning.”
Carson found high levels of iron in one neighbor’s well water but did not find pollution in an underground stream reported earlier to the NBC Charlotte I-Team by neighbor Guy Hutchins, who operates the RiverMist Resort along the banks of the Broad River. Carson said there were not high levels of heavy metals at a sinkhole ten feet deep discovered next to a dirt road next to the river.
State regulators from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources have also tested the seeps at Cliffside but have yet to release results.
A Duke spokeswoman said the volume of the seeps is small and does not affect the overall water quality of the Broad River.
Carson said, “I think ‘seeps’ is a little misleading – it makes it appear like it’s just a trickle. I wouldn’t be surprised if we’re seeing several hundred-thousand gallons a day of this pollution entering the Broad River.”
Duke holds permits for some wastewater discharge from its coal ash ponds at Cliffside but environmentalists have sued at other coal fired power plants over the leaks which they say are an overt violation of state and federal clean water laws.