Duke Energy wants money back for bottled water supplied to residents

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Duke Energy wants customers to pay millions for bottled water it supplied to residents living near coal ash sites.

This comes in the form of a rate hike for everyone.

Residents have lived on bottled water since 2015 when they were told their wells could be contaminated by nearby coal ash.

Duke Energy officials said it spent nearly $2 million on that water.

Those against the move argue that Duke Energy is a company that made $2.1 billion in profit last year alone, rendering the amount spent on the bottled water insignificant.

In 2015, Duke Energy officials said they were voluntarily providing that water to give neighbors "peace of mind."

Residents near coal ash ponds in Belmont, Salisbury, and all over the state received "do not drink" letters from state health officials warning them about possible contamination in their well water.

In 2016, state law mandated Duke Energy provide that bottled water while it worked on a permanent drinking water supply for affected neighbors.

This year, Duke Energy officials asked the state utilities commission to increase customer rates to help with state-mandated coal ash cleanup costs.

It's also asking for nearly $2 million as repayment for that bottled water.

State law allows the company to recoup those funds, but residents who say they've been forced to drink this water for more than two years are not happy that they could have to pay for it.

Larry Mathis/Neighbor

“They're greedy,” resident Larry Mathis said. “They still want to make their millions of dollars and put everything on the customer for the cleanup and their mistakes, and that's wrong.”

A Duke Energy spokesperson said that the bottled water the company provided to neighbors early on was voluntary.

The company wants Duke Progress and Duke Carolinas customers to pay for this bottled water.

Those cases are separate.

The utilities commission is hearing evidence in the Progress case now and it will hear evidence in the Carolinas case next year, but some believe the Progress case could definitely impact next year's case.