Duke Energy NC coal ash spill signifies third largest in U.S. history

Sponsored by


EDEN, NC, Feb. 6, 2014 -- On Monday, Feb. 3, Duke Energy, the largest electric power holding company in the U.S., reported that it spilled between 50,000 to 82,000 tons of coal ash into the Dan River between the city of Eden, N.C., and Danville, Va., polluting the waterway and potentially threatening public health.

The spill was caused by a break in a 48-inch stormwater pipe located underneath Duke's unlined 27-acre, 155-million-gallon ash pond on Sunday afternoon, ultimately draining an estimated 24 to 27 million gallons of contaminated water into the Dan River. The occurrence signifies the third largest coal ash spill in U.S. history.

Coal ash is the waste left after burning coal in a power plant. Containing heavy metals and other toxic compounds such as arsenic, boron, chromium, selenium, mercury, and lead, it is a serious threat to aquatic ecosystems and local drinking water. Further, a 2009 EPA technical report classified Duke's 53-year old Dan River ash pond dams "significant hazard potential structures." Field inspections found them leaking and their surfaces sliding.

Duke Energy's Dan River Steam Station (Photo credit: Duke Energy)

A security guard who noticed unusually low water in the ash pond at the shuttered coal plant led to the discovery of the spill. As such, most of the water had escaped and contaminated the river before anyone at Duke noticed. Eyewitness sightings also claimed the Dan River was "running black" on Monday. Neither Duke nor any government regulator issued a press release to inform the public about the spill until 24 hours after it was discovered.

In 2013, the state of North Carolina filed lawsuits accusing Duke of illegal pollution discharges from leaks in its coal ash ponds at all 14 of its coal-fired power plants, including the company's Dan River Steam Station in Eden. Duke stopped generating electricity at the coal plant in 2012, but the ash remained impounded at the site.

###

Sponsored by

TODAY'S HEADLINES

Historic CWA settlement to prevent millions of gallons of sewage discharges into SF Bay

EPA announced a Clean Water Act settlement requiring the East Bay Municipal Utility District and seven East Bay communities to conduct extensive system repairs aimed at eliminating millions of gallons of sewage discharges into San Francisco Bay.

Students awarded AWRA scholarship for water resource management efforts

The American Water Resources Association has announced the recipients of its 2014 Richard A. Herbert Memorial Scholarship Fund awards. The scholarship fund, established in 1980, was created to be used for the enhancement of education in water resources.

MWRD receives prestigious Excellence in Management award

The National Association of Clean Water Agencies awarded the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago the Excellence in Management Platinum Award for its sustainable efforts toward achieving an effectively-managed utility.

House holds clean water affordability hearing; Springfield testifies on planning proposal

The House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee on Water Resources and the Environment held a hearing to examine the status of EPA's Integrated Planning Framework and legislative efforts to supplement the approach and promote clean water affordability issues.

FOLLOW US ON SOCIAL MEDIA