A state judge has ordered the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and Duke Energy to take immediate action to stop groundwater contamination at Duke Energy plants.
Today's decision stems from a lawsuit filed in 2012 by Environmentalists. Groups claimed that DENR was not doing an adequate job of enforcing state regulations regarding groundwater contamination. Superior Court judge Paul Ridgeway told DENR and Duke today they must take immediate action to stop the source of groundwater contamination at 14 sites with coal ash ponds.
DJ Gerken is a Senior Attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center. He says dealing with the source means removing coal ash: "This is a big engineering task, it's going to take time to implement. But surely what immediate means is that this cannot sit and wait and study a problem we have already diagnosed."
Today's ruling also indicates the state does have the authority to force Duke to deal with the source of contamination, something state regulators have denied having.
DENR has come under widespread scrutiny following a coal ash spill in Eden 32 days ago. Environmentalists claim the agency is too cozy with Duke. Federal prosecutors launched a criminal investigation into DENR and Duke's relationship.
Listen to reporter Jeff Tiberii talk with WUNC's Frank Stasio earlier today, shortly before the ruling came down: