Sara Behnke's statement at the Duke Energy Headquarters on Climate Change during the March on Wall St South
September 2, 2012 in Charlotte, North Carolina
Hello! My name is Sara Behnke and I am a mother, a cancer survivor and a Charlotte resident. I live in the Mountain Island Lake community. Mountain Island Lake is the main source of drinking water for our region, providing water for more than 860,000 people. Duke Energy’s Riverbend Steam Station sits on the shores of Mountain Island Lake and is polluting our air and our water. Riverbend is one of the oldest coal-fired power plants in North Carolina. It has been operating since 1929 – the time of the Great Depression.
Next to this plant are two coal ash ponds covering 68 acres and holding 3.2 million cubic yards of coal ash. This ash contains arsenic, lead, mercury, cadmium, chromium and selenium and a long list of other dangerous substances. And where does Duke Energy store this stuff? Right on the shores of our drinking water! Not only that, they release arsenic-filled water from these ponds into Mountain Island Lake every day. And you know what? They have every right to do so according to our government. Because no one regulates how much arsenic – a known carcinogen – goes into our drinking water.
I can see the smokestacks of Riverbend from my house. I watch the brownish smoke that billows out every time it runs. That smoke contains a host of toxic substances, including mercury. More mercury than any other coal plant near Charlotte. Mercury that causes livelong learning disabilities in about 13,000 children in North Carolina each year.
All of us parents want the best for our children. So I am asking all of you out there, and especially you parents, to take a stand for our children. To protect the health of our kids by demanding clean energy. Tell Duke Energy to stop polluting the air we breathe and the water we drink now! Let’s build a better future for our kids!