On March 22, over 250 residents of the town of Dallas, North Carolina, gathered at nearby Gaston College for the state Department of Environmental Quality’s hearing on the risk classification for the GG Allen coal ash ponds. It was an intense evening, with over two hours of thoughtful, impassioned testimony by impacted community members and supporters.
Coal ash is the residue left after burning coal, and contains potentially hazardous heavy metals such as chromium, vanadium, and lead, which can leach into groundwater and pose a major risk for various types of cancers.
Tuesday night, the state heard concerns from people in Gaston County who say their well water is contaminated from the Duke Energy Ash Basin nearby. Duke Energy says it is following a schedule to close all the ash basins, but some residents say it simply isn’t happening quickly enough.
The timing of the event was also notable, with the hearing following an ordinance by state officials who had issued advisories a year ago against drinking the water to 424 well-owners, most of them because levels of two elements were potentially unsafe.
The Allen coal plant is a 1,140mw coal plant just outside Duke Energy’s headquarters in Charlotte. Last spring the state advised over 100 well owners who live near Allen not to drink their water, mostly due to the presence of contaminants hexavalent chromium, which is commonly used in textile dyes and wood-preserving chemicals, and vanadium, a common element, in their wells.
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