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Environmental groups file suit about Sutton Plant pollution

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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- Environmental groups today filed a federal lawsuit against Duke Energy Progress. They want the power company to clean up its toxic coal ash pollution of Sutton Lake near Wilmington and coal ash pollution of groundwater at its Sutton Plant.

The Southern Environmental Law Center filed the lawsuit on behalf of Cape Fear River Watch, the Sierra Club and the Waterkeeper Alliance.

The environmental groups claim coal ash pollution threatens to destroy the fishery of Sutton Lake and is moving toward the groundwater wells that supply drinking water for the nearby Flemington community.

In a response, Duke Energy Progress says its facilities are in compliance with regulations and that tests show no threat to public health to anyone supplied by well water near the plant. The company also points out that it will retire the coal-fired plant later this year and replace it with a new 625-megawatt natural gas plant.

The groups also criticize the way the plant has disposed of coal ash.

"Sutton Lake means a great deal to the people who live nearby and to the Wilmington community. It is a natural and a tourism resource," Cape Fear Riverkeeper Kemp Burdette said in a news release. "We need to save Sutton Lake from Progress's toxic coal ash pollution."

The utility says its process of moving from coal to natural gas includes a multi-year that will result in safely tear down the coal units and closing the ash basins.

"North Carolina already initiated an enforcement action against the Sutton Plant, and that process is not complete," Duke Energy Progress spokesperson Erin Culbert said in a statement. "We believe these critics are premature in their filing and will not successfully maintain this separate citizen suit."

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