Duke Energy apologizes for coal ash spill, vows to 'do right thing'
Posted February 7
Updated February 9
EDEN, N.C. — A Duke Energy official apologized Friday for a major spill of coal ash from one of its retired power plants into the Dan River and promised that the utility would clean up the damage.
"We apologize and will use all available resources to take care of the river," said Paul Newton, Duke's North Carolina president. "We will do the right thing for the river and surrounding communities. We are accountable."
Duke has estimated up to 82,000 tons of ash spilled from two ponds at the coal-fired plant in Eden after a stormwater pipe that ran under the ponds ruptured Sunday. The Charlotte-based utility closed the plant two years ago.
The ash, which is left over after coal is burned to power electric plants, contains arsenic, mercury, lead, boron and other heavy metals. Scientists say the contaminants don't readily dissolve in water and usually sink to the bottom of the river, where they can pose a risk to aquatic life.
Newton met Friday with local government officials and residents in Eden and in Danville, Va., which is about 25 miles downstream and uses the river as its water supply, to update them on the ash release, water quality and options to clean up the river.
Danville officials said they are successfully filtering arsenic, lead and other toxins from drinking water.
Duke continues to test water samples for various locations on the river, and Newton said water quality continues to improve downstream of the spill site. The company's results are consistent with sampling done by the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources, he said.
The company finally stopped the flow of ash into the river Friday, spokeswoman Meghan Musgrave said. A catch basin and several pumps are trapping any ash coming out of the ruptured pipe and sending it back to a safe area of the ash basin, she said.
Duke also is working with federal and state environmental regulators on a long-term river cleanup plan, Newton said.