Residents near coal ash ponds refuse money for transition to city water

BELMONT, N.C. — Families near local coal ash ponds have officially been offered tens of thousands of dollars to help them transition to city water.

Amy Brown who lives in Belmont opened a letter Tuesday and learned Duke Energy is offering her $26,918, $5,000 of that is to ease her transition to city water.

The state of North Carolina mandated that Duke Energy provide a clean, permanent water supply to some neighbors near local coal ash ponds.

Duke Energy is also offering Brown 25 years’ worth of water bills that equals a lump payment of $21,918.

“I have no intentions at this point to accept what they're offering,” Brown said.

She said she’s concerned about a legal waiver she’d be required to sign.

Residents and their heirs would agree they’ve been “fully compensated” for any harm or loss they’ve suffered as a result of any contamination in their wells.

Residents hoped the requirement would be removed. Duke Energy said Wednesday it is standard.

“This is a pretty significant investment in their lives,” said Erin Culbert a spokesperson for Duke Energy. “In order to ensure they don't come back and seek additional compensation, this is really standard practice.”

The company maintains ash hasn’t caused any contamination.

"Science demonstrates ash basins have not impacted well waters,” Culbert said.

“I'm not going sign anything,” resident Joe Avery said. “I think it's unfair and I think Duke is really trying to put the shaft to us.”

Other residents who own multiple parcels of land were offered much more, with some upwards of $100,000.

“As a mother of two young boys, how can I sign a waiver releasing Duke from all liability from past present and future, including my heirs when we don't know the future. We don't know,” Brown said.

As residents weigh their options, Duke Energy is moving forward with plans to provide a new water supply to neighbors.

“We're hoping to begin construction in late fall October or November,” Culbert said.