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

Global nanofiltration membrane market to reach $445.1M by 2019, study finds

According to a new report published by BCC Research, the global market for nanofiltration membranes is expected to grow to $445.1 million by 2019, with a five-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 15.6 percent.

USGS scientists publish new papers on water resources information

USGS scientists have recently published two separate papers that provide national overviews of the status of USGS water resources information in the context of historical and technical developments in the last half-century.

CH2M HILL earns National Merit Awards for water, wastewater design-build projects

The Design-Build Institute of America has announced the recipients of its 2014 Project/Team Awards, of which two design-build projects from CH2M HILL received National Merit Awards in the Water/Wastewater category.

Study of Gulf Coast Deepwater spill site reveals key to tracking pollutants

Results from a new study of ocean circulation patterns at the site of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill have revealed the large role that small-scale ocean currents play in the spread of pollutants, providing new information to help predict movements of oil and other pollutants in the ocean.

FOLLOW US ON SOCIAL MEDIA