SALISBURY, N.C. – There are 33 coal ash ponds across North Carolina, two of them are along the Dan River.
Coal ash has been a concern, long before a pipe broke spewing thousands of gallons of coal ash into our drinking water.
The North Carolina Department of Environmental and Natural Resources (DENR) didn't require Duke Energy to submit reports from its groundwater monitoring wells around each of its coal ash ponds until 2009.
Since then, there are reports where contaminant levels were breaking the law. One of those areas is near Marvin Auten's house in Salisbury.
"We really enjoy that. You know we've got so many plants, we can't keep up with them all."
Auten has lived on Leonard Road in Salisbury for six years.
"We get our water from an underground stream, like everybody else around here does," Auten explained.
Auten's well is a couple hundred feet deep, and only a couple hundred yards from one of the coal ash ponds at Duke Energy's Buck Steam Station.
The ponds have been there for more than half-a-century, unlined, and full of harmful waste.
"There's nothing to stop it from seeping into the ground and into the water system, as long as it has been there."
Auten is worried, but he's never had his well-water tested.
"I would like to know what exactly is in it, you know, or if it's any problem."
Duke Energy installed groundwater monitoring wells around its coal ash ponds as early as 2005. At first, the wells were just for basic information.
DENR started receiving data from Duke Energy in 2010. Since then, the wells have consistently scored higher than state standards for chemicals like boron, sulfate and iron.
Last summer, DENR sued Duke Energy. It said Duke needed to address high levels of chemicals in 12 of its coal ash pits, including its Dan River Plant in Eden.
The state's reports of the Dan River Steam Station, show levels of cancer-causing arsenic were three and four times higher than state standards.
Now, thousands of tons of that coal ash are in the Dan River, and Marvin Auten is worried about what's going on in his backyard.
"Our water and what it would do to the way we live now here. I think the main concern would be the water, though. The drinking water," explained Auten.
Besides being concerned, Auten is skeptical – skeptical about what he's hearing from Raleigh and from Duke Energy.
"The state, I think they would just tell us what they want us to hear. Or what Duke Power wants us to hear. So you know, big companies can do anything," said Auten. "Maybe I shouldn't have said that."
WFMY News 2 also spoke with residents who live on Leonard Road who said they've never considered testing their well water. Others said they never had any problems.
As for those groundwater reports from the state, Duke Energy says it is disputing those in the lawsuit. The company could not go into detail about the case, because of pending litigation.