Duke includes 188 houses near coal ash ponds in water line plans

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 8, 2016

DUKEVILLE — Duke Energy would pay to connect 188 buildings to a new water line under plans submitted to state regulators on Wednesday.

Required under state law, the plans give most Dukeville residents dealing with coal ash concerns the choice of being connected to Salisbury-Rowan Utilities, a water filtration system or remaining on well water. A total of 189 buildings will receive some type of alternate water supply.

Most of the 189 are houses rather than businesses, schools, churches or other structures. One of the 189 would receive a water filtration system instead of a connection to a water line under Duke Energy’s plans.

Rowan County commissioners had already planned to extend a water line into the area for economic development purposes. Recently, commissioners included Dukeville houses in plans for a water lines after receiving a petition. However, Wednesday’s plans mean Duke will foot the bill for what’s already been discussed by county officials.

Duke estimates the water line extension to cost the company $4.97 million and construction to wrap up in November 2018, which is a later date than county officials have said the water system could be completed.

Dukeville resident Deborah Graham said a water line cures concerns about drinking water contamination but comes with negatives too.

“We moved out into the county so we wouldn’t have to pay city taxes or city anything,” Graham said. “I didn’t ask for any of this. None of us asked for this. This fell in our laps. It’s turned into something I can no longer turn my back on.”

For its part, Duke Energy said in an emailed statement that it has remained focused on caring for neighbors throughout recent controversy over drinking water. Mike Hughes, the company’s N.C. vice president of community relations, cited the fact that the company has voluntarily provided bottle water to neighbors.

“Neighbors have told us they worry about their property values or the burden of new water bills, and we’re exploring ways to address that as we provide permanent water solutions in these communities,” Hughes said.

Graham said she’s grateful for bottled water provided by Duke Energy, but the company is to blame for water concerns in the first place.

In Duke Energy’s plans, they note that state law requires the company to pay for water connections only for houses. However, the 189 buildings include four parcels that are schools or churches.

Next, the plans must be approved by the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality. Among other factors, DEQ spokesman Mike Rusher said staff will evaluate plans to ensure all houses within the half-mile compliance boundary receive permanent drinking water supplies.

The Dukeville plan is estimated to cost the company roughly $26,200 per eligible household. That number could fluctuate depending on how many people agree to hook onto a water line.

Duke Energy spokesperson Erin Culbert said the company needs 142 households to sign up in order to make a water line extension cost effective. If too few people sign onto a water line extension, it may mean water flow through the line is too large.

Duke Energy estimates each household will pay $50 per month for water service. Sewer service is neither included in Duke’s plans nor required by state law.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.