Reality Check: Weighing Duke Energy's clean water offer

Duke Energy is reaching out to customers affected by coal ash. As required by new state law, it's helping provide clean water. It's also offering much more, including insurance against any loss in property value.

But some feel the goodwill offer is still not enough.

Jeri Cruz isn't happy with Duke Energy's offer to provide clean drinking water to people with wells affected by coal ash like her's.

"I just don't want to pick a filtration system at Lowes and come home and say, 'Viola, it's all done,'" she said.

Cruz says what's missing is the details.

"Now if Duke wants to talk to me and other individuals who are interested in getting the reverse osmosis, let me talk to my attorney and see what I can discuss with them," Cruz said.

Cruz has been drinking bottled water provided by Duke Energy after the state found her well was contaminated. But the state says because she lives across the river from the Lake Julian power plant, her well isn't eligible under the law to be replaced with a permanent water supply since the river is a natural barrier. But Cruz says Duke is still offering her the financial package.

RELATED | Duke Energy offers permanent water supply to homes near Lake Julian coal ash basin

"I was telling my husband we just picked up the mail and it looks like we got another letter from Duke Energy," Cruz said.

That letter outlined Duke's water solution and a financial supplement. Eligible homeowners would receive a $5,000 goodwill payment, a value protection plan where Duke pays the difference if the home sells below market value, 25 years of water bill payments for those hooking up to a public water supply ranging from $8,000 to $22,000, and those choosing to treat their wells get a $10,000 water treatment system.

RELATED | Duke Energy offers $5K compensation for coal ash neighbors

"A lot's going to depend on what choices customers make, whether a filtration system or municipal water supply," Duke Energy Spokesman Jason Walls said.

Walls says Duke felt it was necessary after hearing from customers to go above and beyond what was required by law.

"The perception of reduced property values and other things, we felt that the right thing to do was to provide a goodwill package to those folks who will be hooking up to these permanent water supplies," according to Walls.

But in Cruz's case, there is no public water supply and the value protection creates more questions than answers.

"They don't really give you specifics as to property values," Cruz said.

The big concern is how much Duke is willing to pay to cover any lost value when the company continues to claim its power plants have had no proven impact on neighboring wells.

"It's still really inconclusive on whether or not our operations are having any impact or a negative impact on our customer's wells," Walls said.

But customers with contaminated wells still have concerns.

"I already have numerous chronic illnesses, and I don't know if taking showers has affected me," Cruz said.

That leaves some to wonder just how sincere Duke really is about its customers and their safety after originally warning them about the water.

"Don't cook and don't drink it, and that came from Duke. I have it documented," Cruz said.

RELATED | North Carolina health official resigns in cancer warnings flap

Duke says their plan will cost the company $53 million statewide, a cost that will be passed on to stockholders and not their customers.

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