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Waste management director for DENR announces retirement

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RALEIGH, N.C. -

The director of waste management for the Department of Environment and Natural Resources will retire effective June 1, DENR announced Monday.

Dexter Matthews announced his retirement after 30 years of working in environmental and public health protection. He was named director of waste management in 2001.

"I have been lucky to have had supervisors and managers, from my first supervisor to my current supervisor, whom I have learned from, who have been supportive, and who have given me independence for professional growth," Matthews wrote in a message to his staff Monday. "The luckiest I have been in my professional career is to have the best staff in the best division in North Carolina state government."

In addition to being director of waste management, Matthews also sits on the internal coal ash task force "charged with assessing coal ash basins statewide and developing procedures to prevent future environmental disasters at these facilities."

The task force was formed in response to the Feb. 2 coal ash spill at Duke Energy's Dan River facility in Eden.

On Friday, DENR issued two violations against the Dan River Steam Station. And on Monday, DENR announced that Duke Energy had been issued formal notices of violation at five more power plants for not having needed storm water permits, which are required to legally discharge rainwater draining from its power plants into public waterways.

State regulators indicated they had been aware since at least 2010 that some Duke Energy facilities lacked the required storm water permits, yet took no enforcement action until after last month's disaster.

Such a permit may have required testing and inspections that could have given early warning something was wrong with the pipe running under the huge coal ash dump at Eden before it collapsed. Tests performed on the water draining from a nearby pipe after the spill showed high concentrations of arsenic, an indicator that contaminated groundwater was leaking in from the dump above.

The violations were issued three days after The Associated Press filed a public records request for a copy of Duke's storm water permit for the Dan River plant. The agency responded that no such permit existed.

Duke Energy could face hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines for the violations.

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