Residents near the Dan River and Belews Lake joined a listening session Thursday.

The Environmental Protection Agency is collecting ideas and concerns from nearby communities, as part of an environmental justice analysis.

The agency is developing new limits for polluted water released from coal-fired power plants. The EPA made revisions to the Steam Electric Rule in 2015 and 2020.

The proposal would update technology standards for each of the different types of polluted water released. This includes wastewater from the burning process and polluted water from ash ponds and landfills.

The smokestacks at Duke Energy's Belews Creek plant can be seen throughout this area. The company is in the process of cleaning up that site and excavating tons of coal ash into a lined landfill on its property.

David Hairston grew up just a few miles from the power plant in Walnut Tree, and he's worried about the health impacts especially on low-income communities.

“The citizens are still concerned about how Duke Power is handling their cleanup situation and that we want them to stay on top of it and help us, and guide us through to make sure that this is a complete and safe process for all communities that's surrounding this," says Hairston. "We've been through enough to go backwards now.”

He's advocating for federal requirements on utilities to provide independent testing and data transparency.

Other residents say they want medical monitoring, better technology to prevent pollution, and improved outreach to rural communities.

Officials with the EPA say this is all under consideration and more public hearings will be held before any rules are finalized. 

Follow WFDD's Keri Brown on Twitter @kerib_news

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