Unless you haven’t been paying any attention at all, you are aware that North Carolina has a shitton of coal ash. And by “North Carolina” I really mean “Duke Energy.” This week both the company and activists held events on the topic. Allow me to summarize …
In Raleigh on Wednesday, the Raging Grannies, a non-violent activist group, joined forces with several other activist groups and citizens, calling themselves Alliance of Carolinians Together (ACT), a press conference in the N.C. General Assembly’s press room in Raleigh to declare that they’re not only united, they wish to have a seat at the decision-making table with both the state and Duke Energy. Watch the Grannies sing the song they wrote for the company:
Several media outlets picked up on the press conference, including Charlotte’s own WBTV. Here’s an excerpt:
One of the speakers was Larry Mathis of Belmont. His home is near the Allen plant. Several months ago he was warned that his well, and about two hundred others, produced water with higher than average levels of certain toxins. Dozens of residents of Rowan County who live near the Buck Steam plant were told the same thing.
“Our water was found to have 38 times the state standard for vanadium," Mathis said. “So far, the best that Duke can do is just to provide us some bottled water, and only for about two more months.”
On Tuesday, Duke Energy held several events of its own. The first was for the press at its Dan River plant, the same plant responsible for 2014’s third-largest coal ash spill in U.S. history. Though I was not allowed to attend the press event, I was allowed to attend its event in Charlotte’s Mountain Island Lake community where citizens were taken on a tour of the company’s Riverbend plant. You can learn more about the company’s coal-ash plans at Riverbend here.
A similar event was held at its Dan River plant, in Eden, N.C.; learn more about the company’s plans for that plant’s coal ash here.
Duke Energy is required by state law to remove much of its coal-ash from the banks of several rivers and lakes by 2019.
The Duke Energy events were, of course, PR events that focused only on the company’s view of its coal-ash waste problem, blamed for contaminating public drinking water around the state. The Riverbend event was well attended by citizens who peppered company representatives with questions. Some would like to see the site turned into parks or ballparks for public use.
Rhiannon Fionn is a long-time contributor to Creative Loafing and an award-winning independent journalist who has covered the coal ash issue since 2009. She is currently working on a documentary film, “Coal Ash Chronicles,” and a cover story for CL that will appear in print and online in mid-October.