Monday, December 7, 2009

More bad news for Duke Energy

Posted By on Mon, Dec 7, 2009 at 11:18 AM

For too long, all types of industry -- not just power companies -- have infused our water with crap we don't need or want, and regulators have let it slide. Obama's EPA, however, seems to be saying, "No more."

Never forget this: It's our water. We have the right to know who's putting what into it. We also have the right to voice our concerns to policy makers.

Selenium is an essential nutrient, but excess amounts can be dangerous to wildlife and people. Now the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is preparing a new regulation that would require more than 600 coal-fired power plants to clean up — perhaps even eliminate — wastewater discharged into lakes, rivers and other waterways. The national standards would replace a patchwork of state regulations that EPA officials say are too lax to protect fish and wildlife from toxic metals and other elements, particularly selenium, in the plants’ wastewater. Some states allow the plants to emit selenium at levels hundreds of times higher than EPA’s water-quality standards, while others don’t even require monitoring for it.


Duke Energy’s Gibson Generating Station is one of many plants that have drawn the attention of environmental agencies. Rather than rely on the nearby Wabash River for its plant, which serves Indianapolis and nearby areas, Duke Energy constructed a 3,000-acre lake in the 1970s to use as a cooling pond and to store its waste.

The lake was closed to fishing in 2007 because selenium concentrations in the fish exceeded levels safe for subsistence fishing.

At coal-fired power plants, selenium and metals reach lakes and other water bodies from two main sources: scrubbers, which clean contaminants out of the air, and ash ponds, which store waste from coal combustion, Smith said.

While scrubber wastewater is sometimes stored, reused or evaporated to a disposable sludge, it can also be treated in a settling pond and then released into a nearby waterway.  Water from ash ponds can overflow in a storm or be siphoned off to a water body to prevent the pond from losing its structural integrity.  Ash pond wastewater can also leach into surrounding soil and threaten groundwater.

Selenium occurs naturally in coal, and is especially prevalent in bituminous coal, which is burned mostly in the eastern United States.

Once in the water, selenium can start causing problems.

Selenium builds up in animal tissues, so animals higher up the food web end up with more in their systems.

Read the rest of this Scientific American here.

Read more about the two unlined, high-hazard Duke Energy coal ash ponds that are just upstream from Charlotte-Mecklenburg's drinking water intake from The Mountain Island Weekly here.

Further reading from The Charlotte Observer: Duke Energy's piled-up coal ash stirs up anxiety (Note: The two coal ash ponds near Charlotte are exempt from rules that require new coal ash ponds to be lined.)

THIS JUST IN: EPA: Climate Changing Pollution Endangers Public Health And Must Be Regulated

The one-year anniversary of the Tennessee Valley Authority coal ash spill is Dec. 22.

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