Duke Energy’s accidental release of thousands of pounds of coal ash into North Carolina’s Dan River is doing damage far more profound than anyone imagined.
This is the time of winter hibernation for turtles, who nest in the river bed. Waking up to find their homes filled with choking poison, they are crawling onto the river’s edge and dying.
North Carolina officials said Tuesday that groundwater containing unsafe levels of arsenic apparently leaching from a Duke Energy coal ash dump is still pouring into the Dan River, which is already contaminated from a massive Feb. 2 spill.
The state Department of Environment and Natural Resources ordered Duke to stop the flow of contaminated water coming out a pipe that runs under a huge coal ash dump at its Eden power plant.
A nearby pipe at the same dump collapsed without warning two weeks ago, coating the bottom of the Dan River with toxic ash as far as 70 miles downstream.
State regulators expressed concern five days ago that the second pipe could fail, triggering a new spill. The water coming out of that pipe contains poisonous arsenic at 14 times the level considered safe for human contact, according to test results released by the state Tuesday.
Seventy miles of riverbed has been poisoned. Indigenous fish include two species listed as endangered: the Roanoke log perch fish and the James spiny mussel, as well as the green floater, another mussel currently under consideration for endangered status.
I guess they’re all endangered, now. Coal ash clogs gills; the fish and shellfish cannot breathe.
But not to worry. The “company’s CEO said the utility takes responsibility for the spill that sent thousands of tons of coal ash into the Dan River.
Chief Executive Officer Lynn Good said during an earnings call with financial analysts that the company is “very focused” on preventing another spill from happening again.”
I’m sure the turtles are glad to know that.
Meanwhile, the water treatment agency says that the contaminated river water has been cleaned up and it’s not safe for drinking, despite the fact that its arsenic levels are well above federal safe limit. The area is expecting heavy rains which are going to spread the poisons still further afield. It is an environmental disaster of enormous proportions:
Federal officials said Tuesday that toxic coal ash has coated the bottom of a North Carolina river as many as 70 miles downstream of a Duke Energy dump where a massive spill occurred two weeks ago.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service advised that a massive pile of coal ash about 75 feet long and as much as 5 feet deep has been detected on the bottom of the Dan River near the site of the Feb. 2 spill. Deposits varying from 5 inches deep to less than 1 inch coated the river bottom across the state line into Virginia and to Kerr Lake, a major reservoir.
Is there any surprise that Duke Energy’s substantial donations to the Republican party have brought it special treatment and allowed it to sidestep regulations about waste disposal?
South Carolina’s conservative Republican government has forced power companies to clean up their coal ash waste ponds, but North Carolina has not, apparently because of the close ties between Governor McCrory and Duke Energy. McCrory has refused to make public the amount of Duke Energy stock he owns, but as a former CEO and employee for 28 years it would likely be worth many millions if it were typical for a CEO of a large corporation. Records that have been made public show that Duke Energy has made large investments into the North Carolina Republican Party and the Governor.