Pollution from a coal-ash pond in North Carolina has poisoned the water wells used by the folks of Dukeville- and they’re only just being told now not to drink it. Duke Energy, a close ally of the Koch brothers that has teamed up with them to kill clean-energy legislation in the North Carolina state congress, operates fourteen coal-fired power plants in the area. They have grudgingly admitted that the groundwater around every plant is contaminated with toxic heavy metals and other carcinogens.
This is apparently not a new problem; John Suttles of the Southern Environmental Law Center says, “These test results confirm what we’ve been saying all along in court. Duke’s coal ash pits are leaking toxic pollutants into groundwater.” A year ago, a burst pipe leaked 82,000 gallons of coal ash into the River Dan, forcing the company to shell out $102.2 million for violating the Clean Water Act.
The investigations following that incident revealed a host of problems in the coal-waste storage, which are artificial ponds and are often very close to groundwater sources due to North Carolina’s topography. Duke Energy reported that it has “150 million tons of coal waste stored in 4,500 acres of ash dumps in the half dozen states where it has coal power plants, with about 70% of the waste in North Carolina.”
The energy giant is unsurprisingly denying any responsibility for poisoning the land and its people around its waste sites. It points to the lack of the metals boron and sulfates- a common sign of coal pollution- in the wells as evidence of innocence, ignoring the presence of vanadium, mercury, arsenic, and manganese- all very toxic and potentially cancerous heavy metals.
Nineteen homes and a church have received warnings from the government telling them not to drink or cook with their water, while further testing is done to ensure responsibility belongs to Duke Energy. Even if it is, who knows what the consequences will be. It should come as no surprise that Duke is a huge contributor to GOP political campaigns- donating $3 million last year for Governor Pat McCrory’s re-election campaign. He also happened to own stock in the company until being forced to sell it for those pesky “ethics” reasons.
As Politicus puts it, “One is inclined to feel empathy for environmentally poisoned North Carolina residents, but they did enthusiastically elect former Duke employees as Republican governor and state legislators who work for the Koch brothers and ALEC.” These are the results of Republican leadership- corporate freedom to pollute, no responsibility for their actions, and the constituents have to pay the price- with their taxes, their health, and possibly their lives.
Colin Taylor is the editor-in-chief of Occupy Democrats. He graduated from Bennington College with a Bachelor's degree in history and political science. He now focuses on advancing the cause of social justice and equality in America.