North Carolina Fails Its Citizens…Again

Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose, right? When a coal plant on North Carolina’s Dan River spilled a massive amount of coal ash last week, the state officials in charge of the environment said at the time that arsenic levels in the water were nothing to get worried about.


N.C. environmental officials now confirm arsenic levels in the Dan River exceeded state standards for at least two days following the coal ash spill a week ago from a shuttered Duke Energy plant.

The N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources says it made an error when it indicated Thursday that the arsenic levels in the Dan River downstream from the spill were within state standards on Monday and Tuesday.

At least one sample Monday showed arsenic levels were four times the state’s standard for human health, the agency now says. At least one sample on Tuesday also showed levels about the state standard.

This is the thing with fossil fuels: we are discovering to our great cost that they are far, far costlier than the alternatives.

“The good news is that so far none of the downstream municipalities are reporting that their drinking water is contaminated,” says Jamie Kritzer, a spokesman for NCDENR.

The same cannot be said for the river’s ecosystem.

“In all honesty, the numbers we’re seeing are of concern for the long-term health of that river and all of the species that rely on it,” Mr. Kritzer says.

Until now, the Dan River has been considered a swimable, fishable, and biologically healthy river, says Ms. Edwards of the Dan River Basin Association. Deer, raccoons, bald eagles, and herons frequented its banks, people fished for catfish, and children enjoyed swimming and tubing. How this spill will affect the health of the river’s ecosystems remains unknown.

Nina Simone is from North Carolina.

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