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Duke Energy: $5,000 part of larger financial offer

By Josh Bergeron

josh.bergeron@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — With a state-required water line and other financial offers, Duke Energy could spend as much as $9 million addressing water quality concerns in the Dukeville community, according to a company spokesperson.

The company provided financial information in response to a Salisbury Post story published Wednesday about why some Dukeville residents plan to decline a $5,000 “goodwill payment.” In accepting Duke’s offer, coal ash neighbors would be absolving the company of any water quality concerns.

The $9 million amount includes about $5 million to install a water line and a filtration system for a single residence. The remaining $4 million represents the amount Duke Energy would pay if well owners within a half mile of coal ash ponds at Buck Steam Station choose to receive the “goodwill payment” and have the company pay for 25 years of water bills.

The 25 years of bill payments are an option if residents opt to be connected to municipal water lines. A state law passed in 2016 requires that Duke extend municipal water lines or offer another source of permanent, safe water to houses within a half mile of coal ash ponds.

If a homeowner sells his or her property or is under contract to sell before Oct. 16, 2019, and doesn’t receive fair-market value, the company also would cover the difference in price. That amount was not included in the $9 million.

Company spokeswoman Erin Culbert said information packets containing the various financial offers would be sent to homeowners next week. She said the $5,000 payment would be the smallest element in a larger plan.

“We tried to formulate a goodwill supplement that would be meaningful to neighbors and that addresses specific issues some have expressed, such as construction near their home or new water bills,” Culbert said. “Most folks would see this as a generous and fair way to address their concerns, especially since mounting evidence shows ash basins have not influenced their wells or caused them harm.”

When it announced its financial offers last week, Duke Energy said customers wouldn’t see a rate increase as a result. Shareholders would bear the cost of the financial offers, the company said.

Regardless of the size of the offer, Dukeville resident and activist Deborah Graham said Duke is trying to use a “one-size-fits-all” model to ease water quality concerns among coal ash neighbors. Salisbury attorney Mona Lisa Wallace expressed similar concerns to Graham in a written statement, saying the company failed to consider individual circumstances.

Culbert said that lawyers are unnecessarily injecting themselves into the situation.

“Unfortunately, it appears trial lawyers are taking advantage of these residents’ frustration, and I sincerely hope that doesn’t jeopardize the ability for the rest of these neighbors to receive the water solution they prefer or timely installation of it,” She said.

Currently, water lines planned for the Dukeville area are projected to be installed and operational by mid- to late 2018.

Contact reporter Josh Bergeron at 704-797-4246.

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