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Letters notify 171 houses in Dukeville of plans for water supply

By Josh Bergeron

josh.bergeron@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — A total of 171 houses in the Dukeville community could receive a new, permanent water supply because of potential coal ash contamination from Buck Steam Station.

Letters sent this week to well owners within a half mile of coal ash ponds notified them of permanent water supply requirements. A state law signed this year requires Duke Energy to pay the full cost of installing a permanent water supply, which could be a filtration system or municipal water line.

Department of Environmental Quality spokesman Mike Rusher said municipal water lines are “the preferred method,” but filtration systems could also be chosen.

In Rowan, county commissioners have already approved plans to extend water lines to the Dukeville community. Specifically, commissioners have given an engineering firm approval to design the system, bid it to contractors and proceed with construction. Commissioners approved their plans before the passage of a state law earlier this year, but county officials have said they expected Duke Energy to pay for part or all of the cost.

Duke Energy says it is aware of Rowan County’s plans. The company will need to submit its own plans to provide permanent water to Dukeville residents by the end of 2016. A permanent supply of water must be provided to houses within a half mile of coal ash ponds by Oct. 15, 2018.

Roughly 1,000 of this week’s letters were sent to houses across North Carolina. The 171 letters sent to Rowan County residents is approximately double the number of locations where well water was tested for contamination under the 2014 Coal Ash Management Act.

The well water tests identified dozens of homes in the Dukeville community with levels of heavy metals that were higher than health screening levels and state standards, where they existed. After questioning whether those screening levels were too stringent, environmental regulators lifted “do not drink” recommendations. Residents of the Dukeville community, however, continue to use bottled water for drinking and cooking.

In part, the letters state “In the near future, you should expect to be contacted by Duke Energy about providing a permanent replacement water supply. The state environmental department is committed to holding Duke Energy accountable for meeting the requirements of the law.”

The letter sent to houses near coal ash ponds is signed by Environmental Quality Secretary Donald van der Vaart.

In a news release, Environmental Quality Assistant Secretary Tom Reeder said state regulators “are providing residents with the peace of mind that comes from receiving alternate water connections.”

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.

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