New study reveals questionable science of coal ash

Study reveals deficiencies in Duke Energy’s hazard assessment of its North Carolina coal ash storage sites
(PR NewsChannel) / April 12, 2016 / DURHAM, N.C. 

Insightus LogoDuke Energy’s risk assessments of its coal ash storage sites across North Carolina are riddled with scientific deficiencies, according to a new study by the non-profit data analysis firm, Insightus.

Duke’s safety self-assessments, required by the state’s 2014 Coal Ash Management Act, will be used by state pollution regulators to determine how quickly the giant electric utility’s fourteen toxic coal ash waste sites should be shut down, and how much cleanup should be performed at each site.

Duke – the nation’s largest electric utility – has suggested it could cost the company up to $10 billion to clean up sites that the state ultimately declares ‘high risk.’

According to the new study’s lead author and Insightus’ president, Dr. William Busa, “Duke Energy could have a lot to gain by painting the most rosy picture possible to suggest its coal ash storage sites pose no imminent threat to human health and safety. And state regulators’ judgments may be equally questionable, because from Gov. McCrory on down to the Secretary of Environment, Duke Energy has packed North Carolina’s government with past energy company executives and other ‘business-friendly’ regulators.”

“So we thought it might be a good idea to have truly independent data scientists review Duke’s site assessment reports.”

Insightus investigators, advised by professional hydrogeologists and environmental law experts, conducted an in-depth review of one representative example of Duke’s fourteen site assessments, for the utility’s Allen Steam Station in Gaston County, NC.

“We were very disturbed by the large number of really basic scientific errors we discovered in that report,” Busa continued. “For example, Duke Energy claims in its self-assessment that groundwater from beneath Allen Station’s coal ash impoundment – laden with toxic and cancer-causing chemicals – flows safely away from neighboring residential water wells in nearby Belmont. But our analysis found that that claim is contradicted by Duke’s own data.”

“Duke insists it is not responsible for the high levels of carcinogens which the Department of Environmental Quality has found in neighboring residential water wells. But the ‘proof’ it offers depends on cherry-picking only the most favorable bits from the data set it assembled. When we looked at all the data, without cherry-picking, quite the opposite story emerged.”

North Carolina public health officials recently rescinded hundreds of ‘do-not-drink’ advisories issued last year to residential well owners neighboring Allen Station and Duke’s other ash storage sites. According to Busa, “Duke-friendly state regulators said that after further study they had determined that local residents’ well water was ‘as safe to drink as most cities and towns across the state.’ But again, when we analyzed the state’s and Duke’s own data, we found exactly the opposite.”

Insightus’ report on its independent review of Duke Energy’s site assessments is available on the web at

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Notes to Editors:

  1. Insightus is a North Carolina non-profit 501(c)(3) corporation. Its all-volunteer staff of statisticians, scientists, and concerned citizens share a commitment to its mission of “harnessing the 21st Century technology of ‘data science’ to promote a just, civil, democratic and sustainable world”
  2. Insightus’ web site is at
  3. The report described in this press release is titled Duke Energy’s Poisoned Power: How the giant utility’s bad science – and friends in high places – hide the poisoning of North Carolina’s drinking water by Duke’s coal ash. It is available on the web at
  4. Interviews with Insightus’ president and the report’s lead author, Dr. William Busa, regarding this story are available. Please email using the subject line “INTERVIEW REQUEST,” or phone (919) 946-4553 during U.S. Eastern business hours.

Insightus Media Relations
(919) 946-4553

Direct link:

SOURCE:  Insightus

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