Tuesday afternoon, more than 150 concerned citizens gathered at Duke Energy’s headquarters in Charlotte, N.C., to demand that the company take action to clean up its toxic coal ash. The event was the result of an amazing collaboration between a variety of environmental and social justice groups from the states affected by the Dan River spill — North Carolina and Virginia — as well as national interest groups.
North Carolina environmental officials held a press briefing last week to discuss the massive Feb. 2 Dan River coal ash spill. After offering misleading statements in defense of the agency, officials abruptly walked out amid unanswered questions on their continued delays in holding polluters fully accountable.
As the cornerstone of crisis P.R., apologies are to be expected after the West Virginia chemical spill and the coal ash spill in North Carolina. But without action, apologies aren’t meaningful — they’re a reflex, a stalling tactic and a reminder of past offenses. In the weeks and months ahead, we should hold polluters responsible by remembering all the acceptances of accountability and the promises to do better that came after the spills.
Contaminated water continued to flow into the Dan River from Duke Energy’s coal ash pond in Eden, N.C., this week. On Tuesday, state officials reported that a second pipe running beneath the coal ash pond is leaking water containing arsenic at levels 14 times higher than human health standards. Officials do not know how long the pipe has been leaking, but video footage from inside the pipe shows stains around the leaky seams, indicating that the leak is not new.
The N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources is the target of a federal criminal investigation following Duke Energy’s coal ash spill into the Dan River on February 2. The U.S. Attorney’s office issued a grand jury subpoena requesting records from DENR related to coal ash discharges from the Dan River Power Plant including emails, memos and reports from 2010 to the present. Duke Energy confirmed to WRAL that it also received a subpoena, but the company is not required to disclose the contents of the subpoena.
The N.C. Department of Health issued an advisory on Wednesday, warning citizens not to touch the Dan River, which was contaminated with coal ash 10 days ago after a storm water pipe broke at Duke Energy’s retired plant in Eden, N.C. The Department of Health also advised residents not to eat fish or mussels from the river. Duke still has not come out with a cleanup plan for the spill, which has left parts of the Dan River unsafe for recreational use, including swimming and fishing.
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.