Posts Tagged ‘Red White and Water’

Duke Energy Appeals Court Order to End Coal Ash Groundwater Pollution

Friday, April 4th, 2014 - posted by brian
Duke Energy says its accountable but continues to delay any real action on coal ash.

Duke Energy says it’s accountable for its coal ash pollution while evading responsibility and delaying any real action.

Duke Energy has appealed a March 6 ruling by a Wake County judge that it must take immediate action to end groundwater pollution from its coal ash ponds at its coal-fired power plants in North Carolina.

The company also asked the N.C. Court of Appeals to freeze an order to clean up its coal ash pollution until the appeal can be heard.

From the Charlotte Business Journal:

Duke contends that if the stay is not granted “years of planning … will be eliminated, and significant material costs will be imposed on Duke Energy and its customers while this matter is pending appeal.”

And if an appellate court overturns the ruling, it argues, Duke and its customers will be harmed by a ruling that is no longer in force.

If you’re skeptical that Duke Energy has invested “years of planning” into how to better manage its toxic coal waste, well, you have every reason to be.

After all, would a company that has spent years of planning to resolve its coal ash issues pump 61 million gallons of toxic wastewater from coal ash ponds directly in to the Cape Fear River and call it “routine maintenance?”

Would a company that has spent years of planning to protect the public from high hazard coal ash ponds miss a large crack in an earthen dam holding back millions of gallons of sludge?

Or how about when the state asked Duke Energy to send it comprehensive documentation on how it plans to address its coal ash problem, and the letter Gov. McCrory and the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resource received was four-pages long? Even DENR Secretary John Skvarla called the response “inadequate.”

“There are far too many questions left unanswered and Duke Energy should provide the information we originally requested, including the estimated costs of cleanup, plans for the future and a detailed timeline,” Skvarla said.

Don’t you think a company that has spent “years of planning” on the issue of coal ash would have some of that information? Oh, and it was only last week that Duke Energy announced it had created a “task force” to review how it handles coal ash. And the company was quick to update a website with details about its Coal Plant Decommissioning Program after the Dan River spill.

CEO Lynn Good and other Duke representatives have repeatedly said the company is accountable for the Dan River spill and coal ash pollution at other plants. So why does the company seem so focused on evading its responsibility?

Another Week of Coal Ash Coverage in North Carolina

Friday, March 28th, 2014 - posted by Sarah Kellogg


Since Feb. 2, when the Dan River coal ash spill drew national attention to the threats coal ash poses to our waterways (again), North Carolinians have come together to tell state regulators and elected officials that the risks associated with Duke Energy’s coal ash ponds are unacceptable.

On Tuesday, the Sierra Club released a poll of more than 600 North Carolinians that showed 90 percent of voters believe Duke Energy should clean up all of its coal ash sites in the state. Of those polled, 83 percent said that coal ash should be regulated as a hazardous waste by the EPA, including majorities of Democrats (91 percent), Independents (85 percent), and Republicans (75 percent).

Support for proper storage of toxic coal ash also beyond polling data and into public life. Across the state citizens have rallied to demand Duke Energy pay to clean up its coal ash, rather than passing the costs on to their ratepayers, as the company’s CEO, Lynn Good, has suggested.

Last Saturday, North Carolinians and Virginians gathered in Eden, N.C., to support residents of Eden and the surrounding communities who love the Dan River. Organized by the Dan River Basin Association, Appalachian Voices, NC Conservation Network, and the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, the event was an opportunity for community members to unite over food and music, provided by the very talented Dan River Girls, and stand in solidarity almost two months after the tragic and preventable coal ash spill into the Dan River.

Unfortunately, even as we celebrate all that’s beautiful about the Dan, Duke Energy continues to find new deposits of coal ash and elsewhere Duke Energy’s disregard for safety continues. After the Cape Fear Riverkeeper released aerial photographs of Duke illegally pumping toxic wastewater from coal ash ponds into the Cape Fear River, officials noticed a crack in one of the earthen dams containing the coal ash at the Cape Fear plant.

Apparently, DENR has been feeling the public pressure too. After blocking the Southern Environmental Law Center’s attempts to enforce the Clean Water Act and hold Duke accountable for unpermitted toxic discharges, DENR has asked a judge to withdraw their previous settlement with Duke Energy and allow its lawsuit to go forward.

DENR also announced that it will be working closely with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on how to remediate the problem of coal ash pollution in North Carolina. This seems to be a change of heart, after DENR turned down nearly $600,000 from the EPA to study the potential of fracking to damage water quality.

Click here to learn more about the Dan River coal ash spill and the problem of coal ash pollution.

Fouling Our Nest: Coal Ash Roundup and Next Steps

Tuesday, March 18th, 2014 - posted by kara
More than a month after the Dan River spill more of Duke Energy's rogue policies related to coal ash are coming to light.

More than a month after the Dan River spill more of Duke Energy’s rogue policies related to coal ash are coming to light. Above, Appalachian Voices’ Matt Wasson collects water samples from the Dan River

We’ve seen national interest in North Carolina’s coal ash mess grow over the past month and a half, and it’s been a wild ride.

The Dan River coal ash spill on Feb. 2 sparked a wave of support for closing the 33 ash ponds owned by Duke Energy polluting North Carolina’s surface and ground waters. We’ve got a complete history of developments on this page. Here are the most recent developments:

Amy Adams, our N.C. Campaign Coordinator, participated in an outstanding News & Observer editorial interview and a community informational panel last week in Durham. She was joined by John Dorney and George Matthis, long-time employees of the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources who have since retired and began speaking out against the political breakdown of the agency. The N&O interview provides the most comprehensive insight into how Gov. McCrory and his administration have degraded the agency responsible for protecting the air, land, and water we all depend on. Amy explains the threat and what’s at stake:

“No one should have to open their tap and turn on water and wonder whether this is going to kill me in 30 years. It’s called sub-lethal chronic exposure … It’s scary how many folks have cancer, multiple miscarriages, neurological issues. The watchdog that’s supposed to be in charge of that basically is a lap dog. They’re not going after the folks they need to be going after in order to protect the health of North Carolinians.”

Amid the political upheaval over coal ash regulation, we’re seeing widespread public support for Duke Energy to clean up all of the North Carolina coal ash ponds and pay for the process. 83 percent of citizens polled say they want Duke to move and store the utility’s coal ash in dry landfills and 93 percent support the state government in enforcing that demand. Surely public outcry against Duke’s blatant disregard for protecting clean water will increase over time as more aspects of the utility’s rogue maintenance policies are uncovered, including how it is pumping toxic water from coal ash ponds into the Cape Fear River.

When it comes to paying for proper ash storage in lined landfills, 79 percent of citizens agree that Duke must pay for it, not taxpayers. We couldn’t agree more. N.C. Attorney General Roy Cooper says that “Duke Energy should clean up the coal ash at its own expense, and we will fight for consumers if the company tries to charge them.”

Lastly, the grand jury proceedings begin today, March 18, and will continue until all persons filed with subpoenas have been questioned. We’ll watch what comes out of the federal criminal investigation and how it influences the ever-developing argument to stop coal ash pollution in North Carolina and the U.S.

Emails indicate coordination between Duke Energy and DENR on coal ash lawsuits

Thursday, March 13th, 2014 - posted by brian
Internal emails between DENR staff reveal the agency discussed “how Duke wants to be sued” after it blocked citizen lawsuits over coal ash pollution.

Internal emails between DENR and Duke Energy reveal the agency coordinated closely with utility on how it wanted to treat its coal ash pollution after blocking multiple citizen lawsuits.

The Associated Press reported today that emails between N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources staff, officials in the N.C. Department of Justice and lawyers for Duke Energy indicate the agency coordinated with Duke after blocking citizens groups from suing the company over coal ash pollution.

The emails, provided to AP and other sources by the Southern Environmental Law Center, reveal that a Duke lobbyist contacted DENR seven weeks after SELC filed a 60-day notice of its intent to sue Duke. One exchange between an N.C. Department of Justice lawyer and DENR staff asks “how Duke wants to be sued.”

Although initial reports framed that phrase in a much more deceitful light, the exchange was one of the more innocuous of the emails released today. According to WRAL, it was part of an email thread in which lawyers working for DENR expressed confusion over the company’s proper name after it had merged with Progress Energy.

In other “more problematic” exchanges, a lawyer for Duke suggests that the consent order between Duke and DENR give Duke an opportunity to provide cleanup plans to DENR, instead of setting deadlines for Duke to take action — a wish that DENR granted.

“This is just part and parcel of DENR not enforcing the law,” Frank Holleman, a lawyer with SELC, told WRAL.

DENR spokesperson Drew Elliot claims the agency was working to ensure some action was taken, while avoiding a lengthy lawsuit.

Last summer, after intervening to prevent lawsuits brought by several groups represented by SELC against Duke for coal ash pollution at two North Carolina coal plants, DENR announced a proposed settlement that required Duke, a $50 billion company, to pay a fine of just $99,000. The settlement did not require Duke to actually address the pollution.

Two days after a public comment period ended related to that settlement, in which a single comment out of more than 4,000 thought the settlement acceptable, DENR came out with a curveball and announced it was seeking injunctions against Duke’s 12 other coal-fired power plants, effectively blocking citizen action on coal ash at every coal plant in the state.

For months nothing happened and dreams of accountability and the oversight necessary to protect communities from coal ash crumbled. But DENR Secretary John Skvarla and Gov. Pat McCrory, a former Duke employee, staunchly defended the agency, and they still are.

In the wake of the Dan River coal ash spill in February, however, major media outlets have pointed to abundant evidence that DENR may have been closer with Duke Energy than it was letting on.

It should come as little surprise that the state agency, which rewrote its mission statement to focus on “customer service,” would collude with Duke rather than letting citizen suits go forward. But since a federal criminal investigation was launched following the spill, this news is the first concrete example of coordination between Duke and DENR staff to avoid any real progress on the problem of coal ash pollution in North Carolina.

Aftermath of NC Coal Ash Spill Still Unfolding

Friday, March 7th, 2014 - posted by brian
A month after the Dan River coal ash spill, questions remain unanswered and public pressure on Duke Energy and the state continues to grow.

A month after the Dan River coal ash spill, questions remain unanswered and public pressure on Duke Energy and the state continues to grow.

It has been a month since Duke Energy and state officials plugged the failed stormwater pipe at Duke Energy’s Dan River Steam Station that spilled between 30,000 and 50,000 tons of toxic coal ash and millions of gallons of contaminated water into the Dan River over six days.

Regardless of the political environment in North Carolina, and the state legislature’s recent treatment of environmental rules, the Dan River spill was a major event and a reminder of the dangers of coal ash and poor enforcement. But with the anti-regulatory renown of North Carolina’s lawmakers and state agencies, it has understandably created a firestorm in Raleigh and around the state of people demanding action that many believe is long overdue.

As much as the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources and Governor Pat McCrory would like to wash their hands of this preventable spill, it continues to dominate state politics, and prominent coverage in national news outlets. And the aftermath of the spill is still unfolding.

Yesterday, a Wake County Judge ruled that Duke Energy must immediately take action to prevent further groundwater pollution at its 14 coal-fired power plants in North Carolina. The ruling negates previous claims by DENR that it lacks the legal authority to require cleanup of ash ponds around the state.

Duke spokesperson Erin Culbert said that the company is “considering this ruling as we take another look at our management of coal ash basins.” Duke officials have not said whether the company will appeal the decision.

The day before the ruling, DENR officials stated that failure-prone corrugated metal pipes similar to the one that ruptured under the coal ash pond along the Dan River are in use at eight other Duke plants in North Carolina, including the Belews Creek plant in Stokes County, where Appalachian Voices has worked to help community members speak out against coal ash pollution.

DENR Secretary John Skvarla speaks to reporters about the agency's response to the Dan River spill.

DENR Secretary John Skvarla speaks to reporters about the agency’s response to the Dan River spill.

Duke Energy and state regulators previously claimed the Dan River coal ash site was the only place the metal pipes had been used.

Unsurprisingly, the ecological impacts of the spill are beginning to rise to the surface. Local news outlets began reporting this week on the appearance of dead clams and mussels that are dotting the Dan River Bank for at least 20 miles downstream from the spill site. The news comes a few weeks after Tom Reeder, director of the N.C. Division of Water Resources coldly claimed “If you’re a mollusk and covered with ash then, yeah, you’re gonna die.”

Other sources have highlighted activism and public backlash in Raleigh and Charlotte, where Duke Energy is headquartered. On Feb. 25, citizens gathered at Duke’s headquarters to deliver a petition signed by more than 9,000 demanding the company take full financial responsibility for its spill and agree to move the rest of its coal ash to safer lined storage facilities away from rivers and lakes.

Then, last Wednesday — especially symbolic, as Christians around the world observed Ash Wednesday — Progress NC with partner organizations, including Appalachian Voices and the North Carolina NAACP, held a protest and press conference across from Gov. McCrory’s home to call on the governor to force Duke Energy to clean up its coal ash. There, the Rev. William Barber announced the NAACP will open a federal civil rights investigation into whether Duke intentionally placed toxic waste dumps in predominantly minority communities.

Major news outlets including The New York Times and Al Jazeera America have done their own investigating, digging up dirt on how DENR’s regulatory power was crippled by anti-environmental legislation and executive directives, and how the public’s trust eroded more with each new revelation that has come after the spill.

Poll: North Carolinians Favor Swift Action on Coal Ash

Wednesday, March 5th, 2014 - posted by brian
Protesters gather outside Duke Energy headquarters in Charlotte, N.C. A new poll reveals overwhelming support for swift action by North Carolina lawmakers and regulators to prevent future coal ash spills.

Protesters gather outside Duke Energy headquarters in Charlotte, N.C. A new poll reveals overwhelming support for swift action by North Carolina lawmakers and regulators to prevent future coal ash spills.

The vast majority of North Carolinians believe Duke Energy, not its customers, should be forced to pay for the cleanup of the Dan River coal ash spill and that state lawmakers should act now to prevent future spills, according to a new poll commissioned by the North Carolina League of Conservation Voters.

The poll, conducted by Public Policy Polling, surveyed 666 residents of North Carolina. Nine out of ten respondents had heard about the Dan River spill, and nearly half of those surveyed said they have heard a lot about the spill.

According to the poll, 93 percent of voters want state lawmakers to force Duke Energy to clean up the Dan River and 83 percent believe Duke should be forced to clean up all of its coal ash sites and move the toxic waste to dry landfills where it won’t threaten ground and surface water. Learn more about coal ash.

Notwithstanding state lawmaker’s claims that North Carolina’s coal ash problem needs to be studied more, 81 percent of those polled said lawmakers should “act now” to prevent the next spill by forcing Duke Energy to move its coal ash away from water sources and into safer lined landfills. More than three-quarters of respondents said they are more likely to vote for a state lawmaker that “gets tough with corporate polluters like Duke Energy.”

“The people have spoken and they demand swift and forceful action from our state lawmakers to require Duke Energy to clean up its mess,” said Dan Crawford, director of governmental relations for the North Carolina League of Conservation Voters. “While another disaster is just waiting to happen, Gov. McCrory and state legislators should not wait any longer to take the necessary steps to ensure these coal ash sites are cleaned up immediately.”

The poll also points to strong support for rooftop solar in North Carolina. When told that Duke Energy made $2.7 billion last year but still wants to reduce how much it pays North Carolina ratepayers that generate solar energy, more than half of those polled said they were “very concerned” with Duke’s approach.

Second Ruptured Pipe Spills Arsenic into Dan River

Friday, February 21st, 2014 - posted by Sarah Kellogg
Weeks after the original spill, Duke Energy struggled to stop arsenic-laden water from leaking into the Dan River this week.

Weeks after the original spill, Duke Energy struggled to stop arsenic-laden water from leaking into the Dan River this week.

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.

The N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources has ordered Duke to stop the flow of arsenic-laden water into the Dan River. On Wednesday, Duke Energy was using pumps and tanker trucks to capture the water coming from the second pipe. To completely stop the leak, the company says it will follow the same plan it used for the first pipe: capping it with a concrete and grout mixture.

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 extent of damage that Duke Energy’s coal ash pond has had on aquatic life in the Dan River is still unknown, but the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is concerned that the spills in Eden will have long-term impacts on the mollusks, fish, and other aquatic life in the river. The river is home to two endangered species, the Roanoke logperch fish and the James spinymussel. It is also used by residents for fishing and recreation. But since the spill they have been advised to not eat fish or mussels from the river or touch the water.

Duke Energy’s outdated and dangerous infrastructure has cost North Carolinians, and now, Virginians, the recreational benefits of a precious water resource. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reported on Tuesday that a massive pile of coal ash, about 75-feet long and as much as 5-feet deep, coats the bottom of the Dan River. Coal ash from the spill has been found as far as Kerr Lake, which is also a popular fishing and recreation destination.

Despite the damage that Duke’s operational mismanagement has brought to these public waterways, the company expects that ratepayers will ultimately have to pay for the spill clean up. Duke’s director of environmental and legislative affairs, George Everett, told legislators that, “We’re focused on stopping the discharge and initiating the remediation of the river. But when costs do come into play, when we’ve had a chance to determine what those costs are, it’s usually our customers who pay our costs of operation.”

Duke’s fourth-quarter profits showed a 58 percent increase and in 2013 the company grossed an incredible $24.6 billion in revenue. It is unacceptable that Duke Energy would place the financial burden of their gross operational oversight onto their customers, especially in light of the fact that the spills on the Dan River have damaged the economic uses of multiple waterways.

Take action now to tell Duke Energy to clean up its toxic coal ash. And join Appalachian Voices and other concerned citizens, environmental and social justice groups to deliver a petition opposing coal ash pollution to Duke Energy’s headquarters on March 25.

Feds Conduct Criminal Investigation of N.C. Agency Following Dan River Spill

Thursday, February 13th, 2014 - posted by Sarah Kellogg


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.

Though this is shocking news, it’s not surprising considering DENR’s delayed response to the spill and the report last Friday showing that the agency assured the public for five days that arsenic levels in the Dan River were within safe human health standards, when in fact DENR’s own test results clearly showed arsenic levels were four times higher on the Monday and Tuesday following the spill.

Gov. Pat McCrory, who worked for Duke Energy for 28 years and received considerable campaign contributions from the company, told business leaders this year that his top priority is making environmental regulations more business friendly. McCrory appointed John Skvarla to head DENR. Since accepting that position, Skvarla has changed DENR’s mission statement to move the agency away from being “a bureaucratic obstacle of resistance” and toward becoming “a customer-friendly juggernaut.”

According to Amy Adams, a 9-year veteran of DENR who is now Appalachian Voices’ N.C. campaign coordinator, the customers of the agency are no longer North Carolinians or the state’s natural resources, but industry. Read her editorial about the “soul-crushing” takeover of DENR here.

If the agency entrusted with protecting North Carolina’s citizens and natural resources from pollution continues to pander to business interests rather than taking action to prevent environmental disasters, North Carolinians may have to endure more spills like the one that sullied the Dan River.

Dan River Update: Citizens Warned To Avoid Water Contaminated by Coal Ash Spill

Thursday, February 13th, 2014 - posted by Sarah Kellogg


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.

This is not the first time that coal ash from a Duke Energy power plant has caused serious damage to North Carolina’s fishing stock. A study conducted last November by Dr. Dennis Lemly, a research biologist at Wake Forest University, showed that fish populations in Lake Sutton, outside of Wilmington, N.C, were suffering as a result of selenium poisoning from coal ash discharges by Duke Energy’s Sutton Power Plant. The study estimated that 900,000 fish were dying each year from selenium poisoning. Lake Sutton is still zoned as a fishery.

Duke Energy’s coal ash ponds are a danger to human health, drinking water, and the precious rivers and lakes North Carolinians use for boating, swimming, and fishing. How many rivers and lakes must we lose before this company properly handles its pollution? It’s time for Duke to stop putting our waterways at risk and clean up their coal ash once and for all! Take action here.

Duke Energy Coal Ash Spill Pollutes the Dan River

Friday, February 7th, 2014 - posted by Sarah Kellogg
Going back on its initial findings, DENR says samples taken near the site of the Dan River coal ash spill show arsenic levels four times higher than the state human health standard.

Going back on its initial findings, DENR says samples taken near the site of the Dan River coal ash spill show arsenic levels four times higher than the state human health standard.

Update: NC Admits Tests Show Levels of Arsenic Above Drinking Water Standards

Updated Feb. 10, 12:45 p.m.

The N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources reported Friday afternoon that their tests from Monday and Tuesday of last week, the days following the Dan River coal ash spill, showed arsenic levels in the Dan River four times higher than the state water quality standards.

This is big news. For five days, the water reports from NC DENR said that arsenic levels were below drinking water standards when they were actually four times greater. Arsenic is a poison that can cause cancer and even death when consumed in high doses or over long periods of time.

An NC DENR employee claims to have accidentally compared the sample results with arsenic standards for aquatic life instead of human drinking water standards. They changed the report on Friday without alerting the public of the mistake. Read more here.

The City of Danville’s water intake is just 20 miles downstream from the spill, but Danville city officials maintain that treated water at the plant did not exceed the arsenic limit on Tuesday.

The EPA will release it’s test results soon. See a map of their sample sites here. A map of sites we tested can be found here.

Coal ash ponds across the state contain arsenic that leaches into groundwater, posing a risk for neighboring communities who drink, bathe, and cook with water containing elevated levels of arsenic, heavy metals, and other toxic chemicals.

Water samples from the recent coal ash spill illustrate that coal ash contains hazardous toxins that have the potential to poison North Carolinians’ drinking water. Tell Duke Energy it’s time to clean up their coal ash and stop putting our water at risk.

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Update: Appalachian Voices’ Water Testing Results Show Elevated Toxics

Updated Feb. 7, 5:00 p.m.

It’s been five days since the massive coal ash spill at Duke Energy’s plant on the Dan River, and Duke still has not stopped the flow of coal ash, though it has diminished considerably.

The N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the Waterkeeper Alliance released the results from their water testing yesterday. Read NC DENR’s results here.

Today, Appalachian Voices released our own water testing results which show values for several contaminants that exceed federal drinking water standards. For example, the arsenic level at the spill site was 95.1 parts per billion, nine and a half times the recommended drinking water standard. Downstream samples also exceeded the federal recommended drinking water and freshwater standards for aluminum, iron, manganese and lead. Read our full results here.

These results show that the Dan River has been negatively affected by the spill, but there is much more testing that needs to be done, since there are numerous, potentially harmful pollutants that have not been tested for, such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and volatile organic compounds.

The water quality results from different organizations vary, however, this is due to the method of sampling. Appalachian Voices and the Waterkeeper Alliance chose to test unfiltered water because this better demonstrates the effects on aquatic life in the river. NC DENR chose to filter their water samples, which removes coal ash sediments. This is an accurate way to test the safety of drinking water, which is being filtered at the Danville, Va., water treatment facility.

The results of these tests should be a wake up call. The spill in Eden, N.C., is an example of the threat coal ash ponds across the state pose. Tell Duke that it is time to protect our water resources from the dangers of coal ash once and for all.

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Updated Feb. 6, 1:00 p.m.

Four days after the Dan River coal ash spill, Duke Energy still has not successfully stopped the flow of heavy metals, polluted water, and chemicals into the Dan River. Take action by clicking here or on the image above to send a letter to Duke Energy telling them enough is enough, it’s time to clean up the coal ash threatening North Carolina’s waters.

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A ruptured storm water pipe was quickly identified as the source of the coal ash polluting the Dan River. But so far, there has been no solution to completely stop coal ash from reaching the river.

A ruptured storm water pipe was quickly identified as the source of the coal ash polluting the Dan River. But so far, there has been no solution to completely stop coal ash from reaching the river.

Update Feb. 5, 5:00 p.m.

Since Monday night, Appalachian Voices has been on the scene of the massive coal ash spill that originated at Duke Energy’s retired Dan River Steam Station and continues to pollute the Dan River.

At the site of the spill and for several miles downstream, our water quality specialists have been collecting water samples and documenting the spill. Check out our Flickr for the most recent images. Greenpeace has also captured amazing aerial views of the spill, available on their Flickr.

In addition to documenting the spill, Appalachian Voices’ North Carolina campaign coordinator, Amy Adams, and Director of Programs Matt Wasson have been speaking with reporters to ensure that citizens are informed of the spill and continue to receive accurate information.

Check out some of the stories here, here, and here.

The N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources states that the water in the Dan River is “NOT safe” and that they will receive lab results for heavy metals tomorrow.

The city of Danville, Va., says that their water treatment facility has been able to treat the coal ash contamination thus far, and that the water coming from their facility is safe to drink. But further downstream, officials in Virginia Beach halted water intakes on Lake Gaston, a reservoir linked the Dan River Basin, to assure residents their drinking water would not be contaminated by the spill.

More than 73 hours later, Duke Energy still has not successfully stopped the flow of coal ash coming from the ruptured storm water pipe that runs under the pond.

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Appalachian Voices' Matt Wasson tests water from the Dan River near the site of a coal ash spill.

Appalachian Voices’ Matt Wasson tests water from the Dan River near the site of a coal ash spill. Photo by Eric Chance (View more photos)

Since Sunday night, coal ash has been spilling into the Dan River from a coal ash pond at Duke Energy’s retired Dan River Steam Station in Eden, N.C. The spill began when a storm water pipe under one of the plant’s coal ash pond burst, causing solid coal waste and toxic water held in the basin to flow through the pipe into the river.

Duke estimates that up to 27 million gallons of water from the basin and as much as 82,000 tons of solid ash have entered the river. But the company still has not successfully stopped the flow, according to Duke spokeswoman Erin Culbert.

Duke did not publicly report the spill until after 4 P.M. on Monday evening, though it was first noticed by a security guard who saw that the water level in the ash pond was lower than usual around 2 P.M. on Sunday.

Throughout the day, residents saw the Dan River changing colors and ash washing up on the river banks. Duke has not released any water testing results, despite the high levels of toxic chemicals, including arsenic, selenium, mercury, lead, and boron, present in coal ash. The drinking water source for Danville, Va., is located just twenty miles downstream from the breach.

Appalachian Voices water quality specialists traveled to Eden, N.C., last night to sample the cloudy river and document the spill. “It’s pretty clear that there is a lot of ash that has already migrated,” says Matt Wasson of Appalachian Voices, “the water is very gray and the sediment has coal ash in it. Already, the spill has clearly traveled to Danville.”

Although Duke claims that the dam itself, which is holding back 27 acres of coal ash, remains secure, they also report that erosion has occurred on one side of the dam. The ash basin is rated “high hazard” by the EPA meaning that dam failure would likely cause serious property damage and human death.

“This is the latest, loudest alarm bell yet that Duke should not be storing coal ash in antiquated pits near our state’s waterways,” says Frank Holleman, an attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center.

Duke is currently being sued by the state for unpermitted coal ash discharges at all 14 of its coal-fired power plants. Although seven of the plants are retired, the coal ash remains on site, posing a serious danger to neighboring residents and North Carolina’s surface and groundwaters.

There are 27 coal ash ponds in the state, many of which are just as likely as the Dan River pond to breach and cause serious damage and loss of human life. Even when coal ash is properly contained, the EPA reports that residents living near coal ash ponds are 9 times more likely to develop cancer than someone who smokes a pack of cigarettes a day.

This spill comes only four months after coal ash from Duke’s Sutton Power Plant contaminated the groundwater of a community near Wilmington, N.C., forcing residents to switch to another drinking water source.

Duke Energy claims that they are “committed to closing ash basins in a way that protects groundwater long-term and is prudent for customers and neighbors” and yet all of their coal ash ponds are currently leaking into ground and surface waters.

This is not the first time that coal ash has spilled into waterways, but it’s time for Duke Energy to do its part to make it the last.

Visit Appalachian Voices’ Red, White, and Water page to learn more about our work to pressure Duke Energy and other coal-burning utilities to clean up properly store coal ash in dry, lined pits away from precious water resources.