State environmental regulators have agreed to hold a public hearing Thursday, November 21, on a Southport power plant’s draft permit that would allow it to continue putting hundreds of thousands of gallons of industrial wastewater into the ocean off Caswell Beach daily.

The CPI USA hearing on its contaminants discharge – which includes ash from burning coal, tires and wood – and stormwater discharges – will be at 6 p.m. in Building A at Brunswick Community College in Bolivia. Speakers may sign up beginning at 5 p.m.

The Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) is reclassifying CPI’s discharges to meet a stricter federal standard. Recent notification of this process brought to light the company’s usual practices, which include discharging more than 400,000 gallons a day of waste ash, oils, grease and other contaminants. The discharge includes an estimated 14,000 gallons per year of bottom boiler ash left over after the remainder of the waste is trucked to a disposal site.

The wastewater flows from the plant to Duke Energy’s cooling canal, which empties into the ocean 2,000 feet off Caswell Beach. The fact that cooling canal water contains significant contaminants caught local officials off guard, and aroused concern from the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC), Brunswick Environmental Action Team (BEAT), Cape Fear River Watch, Sierra Club and N.C. Coastal Federation.

“I’m excited that the state wants to hear from the people who are affected by this,” said Pete Key, president of BEAT.

The towns of Oak Island and Caswell Beach asked state regulators for a public hearing.

CPI, also known as Capital Power, produces steam for the nearby Archer Daniels Midland citric acid plant. It also generates electricity sold to Duke Power.

The hearing will include a chance for comment on the wastewater and stormwater discharge. The stormwater permit includes parameters for the discharge of arsenic, cadmium, chromium, nickel, zinc, oil and grease, suspended solids and materials with chemical oxygen demand. This goes into Price’s Creek in Southport, which empties into the Cape Fear River.

Environmental groups, led by the SELC, have asked regulators to fully quantify the characteristics of the CPI wastewater before granting a permit.

The draft permits are available from DEQ at:

Printed copies of the draft permits and related documents may also be reviewed at DEQ’s Wilmington Regional Office. To make an appointment to review the documents, call 910-796-7215.