Coal Ash Spill in North Carolina


UPDATED: March 4, 2014

Recent news about the coal ash spill:

Utility Cited for Violating Pollution Law in North Carolina (New York Times) -- Duke Energy was charged with failing to obtain storm-water permits; it faces a similar action against its plant in Eden, N.C., where 39,000 tons of coal ash fouled the Dan River last month. … Frank Holleman, a senior lawyer with the Southern Environmental Law Center, lamented that the state was only now cracking down on the utility rather than last summer or earlier when it was aware of deficiencies at the Dan River plant. “If they had cited them then for not having the most basic permit for this storm-water pipe,” he said, “would that not have caused either D.E.N.R. or Duke to inspect the pipe and see if it was rotting?”
Duke Energy receives 5 more citations weeks after coal ash spill (LA Times) -- After weeks of downplaying a massive coal ash spill, North Carolina regulators issued violation notices Monday to five more Duke Energy power plants, in addition to two citations late last week at the site that polluted the Dan River a month ago. Also Monday, the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources described the Feb. 2 spill as an “environmental disaster.” The latest five citations focused on Duke Energy’s coal ash storage basins in five counties, where regulators say the giant utility failed to secure proper permits for storm water discharges. Regulators say more enforcement actions are possible as they look into the handling of coal ash at all 14 Duke-owned power plants in North Carolina. The violations carry potential fines of $25,000 per day per violation, pending the outcome of an agency investigation.
Five Duke Energy Plants Cited for Violations (Wall Street Journal) -- North Carolina regulators have cited five more Duke Energy power plants for lacking required storm-water permits after a massive spill at one of the company's coal-ash dumps coated 70 miles of the Dan River in toxic sludge.
NC cites 5 Duke Energy plants for lacking permits (AP) — North Carolina regulators have cited five more Duke Energy power plants for lacking required storm water permits after a massive spill at one of the company's coal ash dumps coated 70 miles of the Dan River in toxic sludge.
McCrory on tourism, economy -- but not the spill (Charlotte Business Journal) -- N.C. Gov.  saluted the King of NASCAR, made frequent mentions of what he calls a “Carolina Comeback” and never mentioned the coal-ash spill during an appearance Monday afternoon at a state tourism conference in Charlotte. McCrory, a Republican and former seven-term mayor of Charlotte, answered a handful of questions from reporters before making his formal remarks and presenting tourism awards to five recipients from across the state.
74% have heard about spill (Elon Poll) -- On Feb. 2 it was discovered that the retired Duke Energy Steam Station in Eden was leaking coal ash into the Dan River. The Elon Poll asked registered voters if they had heard  anything  about the spill. Seventy-four percent of respondents said they’d heard something about the spill with 36% saying they had heard a lot about the spill,  38% said they had heard a little, and 26% said they had heard nothing.
DRBA calls on Duke Energy to move ash ponds (Greensboro News & Record) -- The nonprofit Dan River Basin Association added its voice Monday to those calling on Duke Energy to move its stored coal ash away from the river's edge throughout the region.
Coal ash spill is No. 1 priority for DRBA (Martinsville Bulletin) -- The coal ash spill afflicting the Dan River has become the central focus of the Dan River Basin Association (DRBA), according to DRBA program manager Brian Williams. On Feb. 2, a Duke Energy pipeline containing coal ash sprung a leak beneath a 27-acre pond. More than 82,000 tons of coal ash leaked into the pond, and more than 27 million gallons of ash-contaminated water spilled into the Dan River over the following days. The leak has since been plugged.
McCrory: My years at Duke Energy won't affect state's approach to spill (Charlotte Business Journal) -- N.C. Gov. Pat McCrory tells the Greensboro News and Recordthat his 29 years at Duke Energy will not predispose him to ask state officials to go easy on his former employer following last month’s massive coal ash spill on the Dan River. McCrory said that the opposite is true. In his first interview since the spill that addressed his history at Duke, the governor said, “I know infrastructure and I know management and I know engineering. Somewhere along the way there has been a breakdown in ensuring that site was properly maintained. “That’s a serious, serious breakdown within that company that must be addressed,” he said.
Regulators frustrated at slow pace of Duke coal ash stormwater controls (Raleigh News & Observer) -- State environmental regulators repeatedly tried to impose stormwater runoff controls at a Duke Energy power plant in Person County but were met with inaction by their supervisors for years, according to internal emails. The stormwater permit section was told to wait until a supervisor could discuss options with the power company. Staffers’ requests for a resolution went unresolved – reaching as far back as the administration of Gov. Bev Perdue. Finally, a regulator wrote, “We stopped asking.” That exchange in September among staffers at the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources was unearthed in a public records request by the Southern Environmental Law Center last week. The center provided a copy of the email exchange on Monday. … The advocacy group contends the emails illustrate that DENR’s recent sanctions against Duke could have been taken well before the environmental disaster that dumped up to 39,000 tons of coal ash and as much as 27 million gallons of wastewater into the river. “We know for a fact DENR staff was trying to get stormwater permits issued for these facilities for some time,” D.J. Gerken, an attorney with the law center, saidMonday. “They’ve been shut down internally after leadership met with lobbyists from Duke. These permits were put on the shelf. Dan River is an example of why we have to have these monitored, as a permit requires.”
Coal ash contamination: Could it happen here? (Shelby Star) -- After a pipe recently collapsed and spilled coal ash on 70 miles of the Dan River, N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources officials are looking into the possibility that another coal ash spill could happen – this time on the Cleveland-Rutherford counties border. Coal ash, which typically contains toxic metals such as lead, mercury, and arsenic, can cause cancer and other health problems. More than 1,100 gallons of water a day is being drained from a pipe at the Cliffside Steam Station. That pipe drains water out of an emergency stormwater basin, which is built on top of an old coal ash dump. The flow from the pipe has not reached the Broad River, but Duke Energy staff members are sampling the water, looking for toxic metals from coal ash. So far, Duke reports it has found no environmental impact from the draining water. But what would happen if they did and how would Cleveland County’s water be affected?
‘Discharge’ reported at Duke’s Cliffside Steam Station in Rutherford County(Carolina Public Press) -- Staff members from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources responded Thursday afternoon to notification of a discharge
Local Sutton Plant among Duke facilities cited for permit violations (Port City Daily) -- Ripple effects from last month’s spill that dumped tens of thousands of tons of coal ash into the Dan River have reached Duke Energy’s Sutton Plant near Wilmington

There's a lot of questions about Duke Energy's coal ash spill on the Dan River.  

Sue Sturgis from the Institute for Southern Studies has pulled together the numbers that really put this disaster into perspective.  Aside from Sue's good reporting, news outlets from WRAL to the News & Observer to the LA Times are covering this disaster.  Please check out some of the articles on this issue and share your thoughts on our Facebook page.

Tons of coal ash spill into N.C. river (LA Times) -- Tens of thousands of tons of coal ash have spilled into the Dan River from a closed North Carolina coal plant since Sunday, but drinking water supplies have not been affected, according to municipal officials and the plant's owner, Duke Energy. Between 50,000 and 82,000 tons of ash have poured into the Dan River, which flows between North Carolina and Virginia, Duke Energy said. Corporate officials, who blamed a broken storm water pipe, said Tuesday that the utility was still working to stop the leak at the Dan River Steam Station in Eden. About 24 to 27 million gallons of basin water from a 27-acre coal ash reservoir at the retired plant also spilled into the river, Duke Energy said in a statement. The company said a temporary plug had stopped most of the coal ash flow, and crews were working to completely fix the leak. Crews were inserting a camera into the broken pipe to devise a long-term solution, the statement said.

Duke Energy Coal Ash Spill Pollutes the Dan River (Appalachian Voices) -- Since Sunday night, coal ash has been spilling into the Dan River from a coal ash pond at Duke Energy’s retired Dan River Plant in Eden, N.C. The spill began when a storm water pipe under the coal ash pond burst, causing coal ash to flow through the pipe into the river. Appalachian Voices water quality specialists traveled to the site of the spill to take photos, sample water and document the damage already done by the spill.
Duke Energy, EPA work to halt ash spill, plan cleanup (Charlotte Observer) -- Dump trucks and backhoes filed into Duke Energy’s Dan River power plant Tuesday as officials worked to plug a leaking storage pond that dumped enough coal ash into the river to fill 20 Olympic swimming pools.
Impact of coal ash spill in Eden on wildlife unknown (Greensboro News & Record) -- Water samples are being tested for heavy metals, sulfates, nutrients, and total suspended solids.
Duke Energy marshals resources to tackle coal ash spill in Dan River (TWCN-TV) -- Duke Energy is working to control a spill of coal ash at its Dan River Steam Station. The utility says thousands of tons of ash had spilled into river since a stormwater pipe burst.
Officials investigate coal ash spill in Eden (AP) -- State and federal environmental officials on Tuesdaycontinued their investigations of a spill of coal ash into the Dan River in Rockingham County. The N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources said Secretary John Skvarla went to the site on Tuesday. A day earlier, officials from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency were dispatched to the scene.
NC Coal Ash Spill Continues to Dump into Dan River (Public News Service) -- The "what if" has happened for the Dan River, which runs along the North Carolina and Virginia border. As much as 82,000 tons of coal ash have been discharged so far because a 48-inch stormwater pipe broke at Duke Energy's Eden power plant on Sunday afternoon. Amy Adams, North Carolina campaign coordinator for Appalachian Voices, is touring the river and said coal ash still is being discharged. "The water is very murky, very gray, very ashen below where the discharge is," she said. "Above that discharge, there's a very marked change in the color of the river. "
Tue, Mar 04