Environmentalists say the very same cancer-causing chemical, made famous by the Erin Brockovich case, was found in the groundwater in Rowan County. The wells that were tested by the environmental group, Waterkeeper Alliance, are on private property near the retired coal-burning Buck Steam Plant owned by Duke Energy.
Sherry Gobble lives next to a coal ash pond that’s on the plant property. Her family doesn’t cook, bathe or drink from their well water after Waterkeeper Alliance says it found levels of hexavalent chromium, a cancer-causing agent, in samples from wells used by families in the Dukeville community.
Gobble said, “That’s pretty scary. That’s really scary.” She added, “Back in February, when the Dan River spill happened, we were like, ‘Oh my goodness. We live right next to a coal ash pond. Should we be concerned?”
Duke Energy says it has been monitoring the groundwater near the ash ponds for years and recently they had a third party lab take samples and do analysis from some neighbors’ wells. Paige Sheehan, a spokesperson with Duke Energy said, “The independent lab results confirm neighbors’ wells are safe and show no indication the plant’s ash basins have influenced their water quality. The tests run by the state are consistent.”
Gobble says she won’t feel safe until her water no longer comes from a well and Duke Energy gets rid of the coal ash on the site next to her property. Gobble said, “I feel stripped of my rights honestly because I have the right to have clean water. My community, my neighbors have the right to have clean water and right now we don’t have that. We’re not assured of that.”
Late Wednesday Duke Energy told My Fox Carolinas they would like to get together with the Waterkeeper Alliance and state regulators to go back to the community and have a third party lab collect and analyze more samples, so that all parties get a chance to watch the process unfold.
The Waterkeeper Alliance is currently talking to state lawmakers and asking them to pass a bill that requires Duke Energy to clean up the Buck Plant coal ash ponds immediately.