Duke Energy settles coal ash lawsuit

Duke Energy settles coal ash lawsuit

Source: Winston-Salem Journal (NC), March 7, 2019
Posted on: http://www.advisen.com

Pete Overby says he’s resigned to the reality his beloved Dan River will never flow pristine again.

Overby feels his grandson will never be safe from pollution swimming in the river he enjoyed as a child. And after the 2014 coal ash spill at Duke Energy’s shuttered steam plant, they’ll never again catch their supper from the bank near the family home.

Overby, 86, and his wife, Wanda, along with 32 other families and individuals who live along the Dan River in Rockingham County, learned Wednesday that their attorney had reached a settlement with Duke Energy in a lawsuit alleging the group suffered damages as a result of the Feb. 2, 2014, coal ash spill.

Details of the settlement were not publicly disclosed.

Bryan Brice, a Raleigh-based environmental attorney representing the plaintiffs, described the settlement with the Charlotte-based utility giant as “amicable.”

In a written statement, Duke Energy spokeswoman Paige Sheehan disputed complaints that the river remained tainted.

“Years of scientific research demonstrates that the Dan River environment, ecosystem and neighboring agricultural lands were not impacted by the 2014 incident and recreational enjoyment of the river and surrounding area continues to grow,” she wrote. “So we are pleased to put this issue behind us.”

More than 39,000 tons of coal ash and 27 million gallons of toxic pond water poured into the Dan over three days after the spill from a coal ash holding pond at Duke Energy’s Dan River Steam Station near Eden.

It was deemed one of the worst environmental disasters in North Carolina’s history.

“The despoliation of the Dan River as a result of Duke’s negligence caused significant hardship for these 33 individuals and their families,” Brice said. “It was a tragedy that should never have occurred.”

Brice sought compensation for his clients for diminished property value, lost profits, discomfort, irritation, annoyance, loss of marketability and use of property, clean-up costs and punitive damages, case documents show.

“On the fifth anniversary of the spill, we have finally arrived at what we believe is a fair conclusion to compensate these families for the diminution of their property values and for the loss of their use and enjoyment that resulted from this spill,” Brice said, saying many of the plaintiffs are parents and grandparents with safety concerns over kids using the river.

“This settlement also puts Duke Energy on notice to act responsibly to protect the environment and take all necessary steps to ensure that these types of incidents do not occur again,” said Brice, who also is representing a family living near Duke’s Mayo Plant near Roxboro.

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