Duke Energy to offer permanent water solution, neighbors say it’s not enough
by Christian Flores, originally posted on January 17, 2017
BELMONT, NC (WBTV) –
Residents who live near Duke Energy plants are one step closer to getting clean water, but say it’s still too little too late.
On Friday, the state approved plans for Duke Energy to provide a permanent water solution to neighbors who have contaminated water. As part of the plan, the company will offer to pay for 25 years worth of water bills.
The stipend they will be providing will be between range from $8,000 to $22,000, depending on local water rates.
“Our neighbors have a safe public water supply that they can really be confident in is important to our company,” said Erin Culbert, a spokesperson for Duke Energy.
Neighbors said this will be welcome with open arms.
“Definitely puts a lot of us at ease,” said Debra Baker, who lives near Duke Energy’s Allen Steam Station in Belmont.
This all started after neighbors received “do not drink” letters in the mail from the state in June 2015. The letter said their well water was contaminated with cancer-causing chemicals in their water, believed to have come from coal ash basins on Duke Energy plant sites.
Duke Energy has been providing neighbors with bottled water since then.
On top of the permanent water supply, which is required by House Bill 630, Duke Energy is offering a goodwill payment of $5,000. Also part of this payment, the company is offering to cover the cost of installation for the permanent water solution, as well as cover any lost home value.
Officials say this could be worth up to $30,000. But neighbors say this is a “slap in the face.”
As part of the $5,000, neighbors who want this payment will have to sign a waiver saying they won’t sue Duke Energy in the future.
“You want to offer me that, so I guess I can shut my mouth and go away. It doesn’t work that way,” said Amy Brown, who also lives near the Allen Steam Station.
Both Brown and Baker are worried for their future health. They say they have been drinking their contaminated water for far longer than the nearly two years they’ve known about the contamination.
“What results might come from that later down the road? We have no way of knowing that at this point,” Brown said.
Duke Energy has maintained their coal ash basins are not the cause of contamination in these neighbors’ wells. They have cited scientific data that shows hexavalent chromium – the main chemical that has come into question – is naturally occurring across the region, and not originating from their coal ash.
Officials say they hope neighbors see they are trying to ease their concerns with their water.
“We can close this chapter on water concerns, and move forward to safely close ash basins,” Culbert said.
But Baker says she is not done fighting.
“We’re not out of the clear at all,” Baker said. “They’re just trying to give us hush money.”
Under state law, Duke Energy has until October 2018 to provide the permanent water solution for neighbors living near their plants, but they may have up to a year extension under certain circumstances.