RSN Fundraising Banner
Dam Breach at Duke Plant; Coal Ash Could Be Spilling Into Cape Fear River
Written by <a href="index.php?option=com_comprofiler&task=userProfile&user=49168"><span class="small">Michael Biesecker and Alan Suderman, Associated Press</span></a>   
Friday, 21 September 2018 12:29

Excerpt: "Duke Energy said Friday that a dam containing a large lake at a Wilmington power plant has been breached by floodwaters from Florence."

Coal ash contains an array of components, including mercury, lead, arsenic and other toxic heavy metals. (photo: Chuck Burton/AP)
Coal ash contains an array of components, including mercury, lead, arsenic and other toxic heavy metals. (photo: Chuck Burton/AP)


Dam Breach at Duke Plant; Coal Ash Could Be Spilling Into Cape Fear River

By Michael Biesecker and Alan Suderman, Associated Press

21 September 18

 

uke Energy said Friday that a dam containing a large lake at a Wilmington power plant has been breached by floodwaters from Florence, and it's possible coal ash from an adjacent dump is flowing into the Cape Fear River.

Duke spokeswoman Paige Sheehan said Friday that floodwaters continue to overtop an earthen dike at the north side of Sutton Lake, a 1,100-acre (445-hectare) reservoir at the L.V. Sutton Power Station. That water has caused several breaches in the dam on the south end of the lake, which is flowing back into the river.

Company officials said that because the river is already running high after the hurricane, they do not expect the breaches in the dam to affect the water level.

The floodwaters had also overtopped a steel retaining wall containing one of three large coal ash dumps lining the lakeshore. Sheehan described the incident as a "developing situation" and said the company can't rule out that ash might be escaping and flowing into the river.

Gray material that the company characterized as lightweight coal combustion byproducts could be seen Friday floating on the top of the lake.

The ash left over when coal is burned to generate electricity coal ash contains an array of components, including mercury, lead, arsenic and other toxic heavy metals. The inundated basin contains at the plant 400,000 cubic yards (305,820 cubic meters) of ash.

Floodwaters at the site were continuing to rise Friday. The area received more than 30 inches (75 centimeters) of rain from former Hurricane Florence, with the Cape Fear River expected to crest Saturday.

North Carolina's top environmental regulator said Friday that the extent of the potential environmental harm from the breach is not yet known.

"What we don't know at this point is if any coal ash has filtered into the Cape Fear River," said Mike Regan, secretary for the state Department of Environmental Quality. "We plan to conduct flyovers ... to see if we can ascertain that."

Security personnel for Duke blocked access Friday to Sutton Lake Road, which leads to a public dock on the reservoir, a popular local destination for boating and fishing.

Duke denied a request for an Associated Press reporter at the scene Friday to pass the barricade, saying that the situation at the lake "continues to change" and is "not safe." Aerial photos released by the company showed a wide breach in the earthen dam and the affected ash dump largely underwater.

Sutton Lake is the former coaling pond for a coal-fired plant Duke retired in 2013 and replaced with a new generating station that runs off natural gas. Duke said that power plant was shut down overnight as it was swamped floodwaters and all employees safely evacuated.

The current breach at the Wilmington site is separate from the rupture at a nearby coal ash landfill reported at the site last weekend, spilling enough material to fill 180 dump trucks.

Duke's ash waste management has faced intense scrutiny since a drainage pipe collapsed under a waste pit at an old plant in Eden in 2014, triggering a massive spill that coated 70 miles (110 kilometers) of the Dan River in gray sludge. The utility later agreed to plead guilty to nine Clean Water Act violations and pay $102 million in fines and restitution for illegally discharging pollution from ash dumps at five North Carolina power plants. It plans to close all its ash dumps by 2029.

At the separate Duke plant near Goldsboro, three old coal-ash dumps capped with soil were underwater Thursday after the Neuse River flooded.

Staff from the Waterkeeper Alliance, an environmental group, visited the flooded dumps at the H.F. Lee Power Plant by boat Wednesday and took photographs and collected samples of gray sludge and water they said was washing into the floodwaters. The group said a private lab would analyze samples.

State environmental regulators went to the site Thursday, though they were unable to make a full assessment because of high water levels.

Sheehan, the Duke spokeswoman, said that any release of coal ash at the Goldsboro site appeared "minimal."

"We'll learn more as flood water recedes," she said.

Email This Page

e-max.it: your social media marketing partner
 

Comments   

A note of caution regarding our comment sections:

For months a stream of media reports have warned of coordinated propaganda efforts targeting political websites based in the U.S., particularly in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election.

We too were alarmed at the patterns we were, and still are, seeing. It is clear that the provocateurs are far more savvy, disciplined, and purposeful than anything we have ever experienced before.

It is also clear that we still have elements of the same activity in our article discussion forums at this time.

We have hosted and encouraged reader expression since the turn of the century. The comments of our readers are the most vibrant, best-used interactive feature at Reader Supported News. Accordingly, we are strongly resistant to interrupting those services.

It is, however, important to note that in all likelihood hardened operatives are attempting to shape the dialog our community seeks to engage in.

Adapt and overcome.

Marc Ash
Founder, Reader Supported News

 
+4 # treerapper 2018-09-22 00:14
The larger question is if this plant was no longer operating, why in hell wasn't Duke required to clean up that coal ash dump rather than leave it so future disasters could wreak this sort of environmental havoc? Clearly, agencies in bed with Duke and not doing their jobs to enforce the laws that remain on the books to deal with these environmental insults.
 
 
+4 # hiker 2018-09-22 09:43
And 'Dictator Don' wants to increase coal use. Great idea dickhead.