People with water contaminated by coal ash reach agreement with Duke Energy

People who have been drinking bottled water for nearly three years because of concerns over coal ash in their well water said they finally have a win against Duke Energy.

Last year, they sued Duke Energy, accusing the company of making them sign away the rights of their children in exchange for money.

Those people have reached an agreement with Duke Energy that, they said, protects their children for years to come.


Two of the residents, Amy Brown and Deborah Graham, said they are relieved after a long battle.

State law forced Duke Energy to connect some residents to new drinking water supplies after they had concerns about well contamination.

“We went up against a multimillion-dollar company and this is a win that we will put in our pocket,” Graham said.

Last year, Duke Energy sent letters to the families offering them $5,000. The company sent some families money to pay for 25 years' worth of water bills.

But to receive the cash, residents had to sign a legal waiver saying they had been fully compensated for any harm or loss they suffered as a result of any contamination in their wells.

Some were concerned about signing away the rights of their children.

“As a mother, any mother out there, your priority is to protect your children and you would do anything to protect your children,” Brown said.

Last year, neighbors filed a lawsuit to rectify the matter, but Thursday, attorneys for the families said they had reached an agreement with Duke Energy and dropped the lawsuit.

"We were able to offer clarification, letting people know what rights are now and in future,” said Paige Sheehan, with Duke Energy. “As a result, lawsuit is dismissed, issues resolved. We're moving forward.”

Attorneys for the families said the new waiver only applies to the person who signs it and preserves the claims of their children and other family members.

“My job was always to protect my children and I feel that I have done that,” Brown said.

"We did not change the requirements of the offer, just educated on the rights they had all along to clear up misinformation," Sheehan said.

Residents said this is one of many battles against Duke Energy. Now, they will focus their attention on Duke Energy's attempt to raise rates to pay for coal ash cleanup.

Neighbors will be at a public hearing next week to speak out against the rate increase.

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