WASHINGTON — Three subsidiaries of Duke Energy Corporation, the largest utility in the U.S., pleaded guilty to nine violations of the Clean Water Act at several of its North Carolina-based facilities, according to a press release.

Duke Energy agreed to pay a $68 million criminal fine as well as spend $34 million on environmental projects and land conservation to benefit North Carolina and Virginia wetlands and rivers, stated the release.

Four of the charges are the direct result of the coal ash spill in February 2014 from the Dan River steam station into the Dan River near Eden, North Carolina, continued the release.

As the scope of the investigation expanded, reported the release, the remaining violations were discovered on allegations of historical violations at Duke Energy’s other facilities.

Duke Energy Carolinas and Duke Energy Progress must certify that they have reserved “sufficient assets to meet legal obligations with respect to its coal ash impoundments within North Carolina” under the plea agreement, informed the release, and these obligations are estimated to be around $3.4 billion.

“Over [216] million Americans rely on surface water as their source of drinking water,” said Cynthia Giles, assistant administrator for U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “Duke Energy put that precious resource at risk in North Carolina as the result of their negligence. Companies that cut corners and contaminate waters on which communities depend … will be held accountable.”

Read the entire release here.

Another release on this topic was featured in a recent edition of WaterTech e-News Daily. You can find that release here.