A federal judge ruled on Monday that conservation groups represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center could move forward with their lawsuit against Duke Energy concerning coal ash contamination of a public fishery near Wilmington. Duke's attorneys had been asking the judge to dismiss the case.
"This ruling is a major step towards protecting people who depend on nearby drinking wells for clean water and on fish from Sutton Lake for their next meal," said Frank Holleman, the senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center who represented the groups in court, in a statement. "The court said Sutton Lake belongs to North Carolinians and rejected Duke Energy's attempt to avoid its responsibility for polluting groundwater and drinking water supplies and convert Sutton Lake into its wastewater dump."
The North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources had issued Duke a permit to dump untreated coal ash into Sutton. But the judge held that the lake was a public waterway, not a private wastewater treatment facility.
As we've previously reported, the relationship between DENR and Duke Energy is under a federal criminal grand jury investigation following the Dan River coal ash spill.