by: Jim Bradley Updated:CHARLOTTE, N.C. —
Environmental protesters picketed Duke Energy for the second time this month, once again calling for the utility to clean up dozens of coal ash ponds around the state.
Duke Energy continues to say it takes full responsibility for tens of thousands of tons of coal ash that have spilled into the Dan River after a pipe beneath a retention pond failed. But as its clean-up continues Duke remains in an unflattering spotlight.
Today more than 100 environmental activists held signs and wore t-shirts with slogans like 'Stop Duke's Toxic Coal Ash Pollution Now!" At a noontime rally they chanted slogans including 'clean up your mess," and demanded Duke dismantle other coal ash ponds, including 4 near lakes in the Charlotte area.
"If we don't have Duke clean up all the coal ash sites around the state it's not a matter of whether another spill like this is going to take place. It's a matter of where and when," said the Sierra Club's Mary Anne Hitt. "There is a coal ash site right upstream from Charlotte's drinking water intake... so people absolutely should be concerned.
Protestors brought petitions with 9 thousand signatures to deliver to Duke Energy executives. They say they were told they'd be allowed to drop the petitions off at the front desk of Duke's uptown headquarters. Security officers posted outside, however, refused to let them in. Duke later said its building managers were to blame and eventually sent out a company representative to accept the petitions.
Duke issued a statement before the protest saying "The drinking water has remained safe. The pipe has been permanently plugged. We take responsibility for this event and also are taking another look at the management of our ash basins."
Protesters say they plan to continue their picketing of Duke's headquarters.