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Second Ruptured Pipe Spills Arsenic into Dan River

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Duke Energy’s outdated and dangerous infrastructure has cost North Carolinians, and now, Virginians, the recreational benefits of a precious water resource.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.

A sunny-spirited North Carolinian with a passion for hiking, viola, ceramics and poetry, Sarah joined Appalachian Voices as our 2013-14 Americorps Education Outreach Associate and later served as our N.C. Coordinator working on coal ash cleanup and pipeline awareness from 2014-2016.


  1. james says:

    I don’t see how in the world it is your customers fault for the spill that came from your coal ash ponds. It is your responsibility not ours. It sounds to me you don’t give a crap about the impact this has put on the animals, farmers, and most of all the people that depend on this river for their everyday of life. All im saying is if you think you gonna raise my power rate due to your mess up you have another thing coming I will find a alternative power source.

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