A new report out from Wake Forest University concludes that coal ash waste from Duke Energy’s Sutton coal plant in Wilmington, NC is elevating levels of selenium pollution in nearby Sutton Lake. The lake, prized by fishermen for its largemouth bass population, has been contaminated, according to a study released today by Prof. Dennis Lemly, Research Associate Professor of Biology at Wake Forest, with high levels of selenium. Selenium has been linked to deformities in fish – including two-headed trout – and can cause a condition known as selenosis if people consume high enough doses in their food or drinking water.
Several conservation groups, including the Sierra Club and the Southern Environmental Law Center, which joined the University in announcing the findings, filed suit against Duke Energy Progress, Inc. this summer, arguing that pollution from the Sutton plant's coal ash is “killing a regional fishing lake and is threatening a community’s drinking water.”
The new report, which found that the coal ash pollution kills over 900,000 fish and deforms thousands more in Sutton Lake each year, is likely to bolster the plaintiffs' case in that suit.
The research also highlights one of the most fundamental problems with American energy policy: policy-makers and the public have been unwilling to recognize the true costs of the fuels we use to make electricity.