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Proposed Deal between Duke Energy and CFPUA Raises Concerns Among Environmental Advocates

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Duke / Progress Energy and the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority could vote as early as Wednesday morning on a deal that would install a water line for a largely low-income community on the outskirts of New Hanover County. 

Toxic coal ash pollution is creeping through the groundwater supply from the nearby Sutton Plant and slowly moving towards drinking water wells that supply the Flemington Community.   Once the contamination arrives, those wells will contain water unfit for human consumption.  

The Cape Fear Public Utility Authority is jumping in to help find a solution – both strategically and financially. 


There are two elements in a proposed deal between Duke Energy and the CFPUA that some environmental advocates are calling “stunning.”   First, the financial contribution of rate-payer resources:  Frank Holleman, a senior attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center, says the proposal has Duke requiring the CFPUA to pay almost half a million dollars for the Flemington project.

“Instead of bearing the full responsibility itself, Duke is off-loading about half a million dollars of the cost onto the rate-payers and the public who make use of the Cape Fear water system in the Wilmington area."

Holleman says because of Duke’s own illegal pollution of the groundwater, the nation’s largest utility should bear the entire financial burden. 

The other part of the agreement that the SELC strongly opposes:   Duke is asking the CFPUA to promise that it will never seek to obtain drinking water from groundwater within an 11-thousand-acre portion of the County. 

“This is one of the largest -- if not the largest -- loss of public natural resources to illegal pollution in North Carolina history.  Because of this groundwater contamination at Sutton, Duke is saying that it wants a promise that forever the public water system will never be able to make use of the drinking water supplies in the groundwater over an 11,000-acre, 17-square mile area.”

The proposal raises questions, says Holleman, about the extent of the coal ash groundwater contamination and whether Duke Energy officials expect the pollution to reach into other parts of the county. 

A Duke spokesperson has not yet returned calls for comment. 

For more information on the CFPUA Board meeting set for Wednesday, October 9th, visit the CFPUA website: 


Rachel hosts and produces CoastLine, an award-winning hourlong conversation featuring artists, humanitarians, scholars, and innovators in North Carolina. The show airs Wednesdays at noon and Sundays at 4 pm on 91.3 FM WHQR Public Media. It's also available as a podcast; just search CoastLine WHQR. You can reach her at rachellh@whqr.org.