What is the real cost to flip that light switch?

Here’s the message that Duke Energy WANTS you to hear and believe:

You do it multiple times every day — flip a switch. You don’t stop to wonder what is connected to that switch or how it works. You’re thinking about the important things in life like next week’s family reunion, your son’s next basketball game, your first day on the job or the upcoming proposal. You don’t think about what will happen when you flip that switch — because we do.

Now here’s the message that Duke Energy DOESN’T WANT you to hear or believe:

In remission now, Danielle Bailey-Lash has questions.

“I’ve lived in Walnut Cove, in the Stokes County area, near Pine Hall Road, for 20 — 20-something years, at least — never expecting to become sick at age 35 and given an expiration date of three to four months,” she said in a video released Tuesday by Appalachian Voices, a nonprofit environmental organization based in Boone.

The 3-minute video – titled “At What Cost?” – features five people who now live or used to live in Stokes County, near one of the largest coal-fired power plants in Duke Energy’s fleet – the Belews Creek Steam Station, built about 40 years ago. No direct, scientific connection between the power plant and the health concerns of the residents is offered in the video. But the message is clear: Some people, regardless of proof, wonder whether they are getting sick because of the power plant.

Bailey-Lash, the video shows, was found to have late-stage brain cancer in 2010.

“Even though I’ve put that behind me, I’m starting to make a connection. Something is not right,” she said.

The Belews power plant has a massive, unlined ash pond filled with the waste of spent coal.

These ponds typically host potential contaminants such as arsenic, cadmium, lead, mercury, chromium and selenium. Health risks posed by these elements include cancer and neurological damage. Conservation groups have warned for years that these unlined pits contaminate groundwater – a risk, they say, that should raise red flags in Stokes, where many households use well water.

For more than two years, Duke Energy has been under legal pressure from environmental groups, including Appalachian Voices, to deal with documented cases of illegal pollution. The utility has violated federal or state clean-water laws at all 14 of its sites, including the Belews Creek power plant, according to the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

A Wake County Superior Court judge has ruled that state law says Duke Energy must immediately eliminate sources of contamination. Duke is appealing the ruling.

Separately, Duke Energy is the subject of a federal criminal investigation related to the Dan River coal ash spill that happened in February.

Read the full article by Bertrand M. Gutierrez of the Winston-Salem Journal at Environmental group releases video, urges Duke to clean up.

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