Neighbors in Belmont remain concerned after Duke Energy plugs leaking pipe at coal ash basin

Duke Energy says it has plugged the end of a pipe that was leaking at a coal ash basin in Belmont, but the fix hasn’t stopped neighbors from worrying about what’s in the water.

Catawba Riverkeeper Sam Perkins says he discovered the leak, and he says it could be an indicator of even bigger problems.

On Thursday, Duke Energy says it wrapped up work to plug a 24-inch in diameter metal pipe in an inactive ash basin that was leaking near Duke Energy’s Allen Steam Station.

Perkins said, “The biggest concern isn’t actually the seepage itself. It’s the fact that there is a corrugated metal pipe, which is the same one that blew out at Dan River three years ago.”

That caused a massive spill of harmful materials into the Dan River in the northern part of North Carolina in 2014.

Amy Brown lives near Allen Steam Station and the now inactive coal ash basins. Brown said, “Knowing that we have a leak in Belmont is very disturbing because it makes you feel like we are the next Dan River.”

Duke Energy says the pipe in Belmont was last inspected in the fall, and it was not leaking then. The company says the leak was discovered this week, and there is boron in the water, which is a possible indicator of coal ash.

Company representatives describe the leak as minimal, equal to a coffee cup a minute.

Brown asked, “How long has it been leaking? We don’t have those answers, which is scary.”

Duke Energy says there is no indication that the Catawba River has been harmed in any way.

Brown said, “It’s just continuously, over and over this distrust that we have with them.”

In 2014, after the Dan River spill, Duke Energy did not inspect that pipe in Belmont. The company said that’s because it wasn’t on the drawings they were using for that particular assessment, but that the pipe was noted on other records.

That’s not good enough for neighbors in that area who say that shows a lack of oversight.