With Duke Energy’s smokestacks on Mountain Island Lake as a backdrop, environmental advocates blasted U.S. utilities Tuesday for “poisoning” the nation’s waterways with toxic metals from coal ash.

“Some of the worst offenders are here in the state of North Carolina,” Robert F. Kennedy Jr., president of the Waterkeeper Alliance, said as five groups released a national report on ash pollution.

North Carolina sued Duke this year over public health and environmental threats from ash stored at the Riverbend power plant on Mountain Island Lake and at its Asheville plant. They agreed to settle the suits last week.

The Environmental Protection Agency, in April, proposed the first federal limits on toxic metals discharged from power plants. The new rules would replace standards last updated in 1982.

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