Toxic metals from coal ash spill threatens NC river, drinking water

Windsor Genova – Fourth Estate Cooperative Contributor

Eden, NC, United States (4E) – Toxic chemicals from coal ash that spilled into the Dan River threaten to contaminate drinking water supply, according to the environmental group Watchkeeper Alliance.

Extremely high levels of arsenic, chromium, iron, lead and other toxic metals typically found in coal ash were found in collected water samples from the river, said the group on Thursday.

Between 50,000 to 82,000 tons of coal ash leaked into the Dan River near Eden, North Carolina through a broken water pipe underneath the pond containing the waste material from a closed Duke Energy coal-fired power plant. Duke Energy reported Monday the spill that witnesses said turned part of a stretch of the Dan River between Eden, North Carolina and Danville, Virginia to run black.

A 2009 report of the Environmental Protection Agency found that the 53-year-old coal ash dams in Dan River are leaking and their surface sliding.

Watchkeeper accused Duke Energy of delaying the announcement of the spill believed to have occurred on Sunday.

“A security guard who noticed unusually low water in the ash pond at the shuttered coal plant lead to the discovery of the spill,” Watchkeeper said in a statement posted on its website. “This means most of the water had escaped and contaminated the river before anyone at Duke noticed.”

The coal ash spill is considered the third largest in U.S. history. In 2008, a billion gallons of ash slurry spilled at a Tennessee Valley Authority power plant in Tennessee.

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