Duke Energy has claimed responsibility for a spill of between 50,000 and 82,000 tons of coal ash into the Dan River near Eden, North Carolina, after the company discovered that a 48-inch storm water pipe underneath the unlined 27-acre, 155-million-gallon ash pond of its shuttered coal plant broke Sunday afternoon.
Both environmental organizations and the general public have concerns that the coal ash, which contains heavy metals like chromium, selenium, mercury and lead, poses a serious health threat to local drinking water. Drinking water intakes are just a few miles downstream of the spill, but Duke Energy has provided its assurances that the drinking water is safe.
In 2009, an EPA technical report classified Duke’s 53-year-old Dan River ash pond dams as “significant hazard potential structures.” The Dan River spill is reported to be the third largest in U.S. history. In 2008, more than one billion gallons of ash slurry spilled at a Tennessee Valley Authority power plant in Tennessee.
“After the Kingston coal ash spill, I sampled the river and found arsenic, lead, chromium and other metals 2 to 300 times higher than drinking water standards and the plume of coal ash stretched more than 20 miles,” said Donna Lisenby, global coal campaign coordinator for Waterkeeper Alliance. “The Dan River spill happened on Sunday, and Duke Energy still has not reported the results of any water quality tests.”
After Waterkeepers initiated enforcement actions for illegal coal ash water pollution at two Duke Energy coal plants in North Carolina last year, the state filed lawsuits accusing Duke of illegal pollution discharges from leaks in its coal ash ponds at all 14 of its coal-fired power plants in North Carolina, including the Dan River Steam Station. Duke stopped generating electricity at the coal plant in 2012.
Waterkeepers Alliance is calling on Duke Energy to close all of their coal ash ponds.
Source: Fierce Energy.com