Duke Pipe Break Causes Ash Release Into North Carolina River

Duke Energy Corp. said a broken pipe is leaking ash-basin water from a closed North Carolina coal-fired power plant into the Dan River.

The release began yesterday afternoon and Duke is still trying to stop the flow, the Charlotte, North Carolina-based company said in a statement today. The Dan River snakes between North Carolina and Virginia. The leak occurred at Eden, North Carolina.

Downstream water supplies for Danville, Virginia, remain safe, the city said in a statement posted today on its website. State officials were dispatched to the site today and are monitoring water supplies, the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources said in an e-mailed statement.

“Engineers are working to estimate the volume of water and ash that reached the river, and the company will provide that detail when it is confirmed,” Duke said. “A team continues to work to eliminate the discharge from the pipe.”

The leak occurred less than a month after a spill from a Freedom Industries Inc. chemical facility contaminated water supplies for hundreds of thousands of residents in West Virginia.

The city of Danville is located 25 miles downriver from the spill site, and has been successfully treating the contaminated river water, according to a statement posted on the city’s website.

Treated Water

“All water leaving our treatment facility has met public health standards,” Barry Dunkley, division director of water and wastewater treatment for Danville Utilities, said in the statement.

“We do not anticipate any problems going forward in treating the water we draw from the Dan River,” Dunkley said.

The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality had no indication of water quality problems near Danville or any other section of the river in the state, spokesman William Hayden said in an e-mail statement.

Investigators for the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources are taking samples and don’t know yet of any possible impacts to water quality, according to an e-mailed statement. North Carolina has notified the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency of the spill.

The EPA expects to issue regulations for coal ash waste later this year, six years after 1 billion gallons of toxic waste spilled from a Tennessee Valley Authority disposal pond.

Environmental groups have sued the EPA to force a decision on regulations, arguing that new rules are needed to protect human health and the environment.

“The Dan River Basin Association has a full time staff person in Rockingham County dedicated to the protection and promotion of the natural and cultural resources here,” Tiffany Haworth, executive director of the group, said in a statement today. “We are very concerned about the potential impact this spill will have on drinking water and the outdoor recreational economy.”

Duke’s Dan River station has been closed since 2012.

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