Is it ash? Utility, environmentalists at odds about what's in the water
Posted October 19, 2016
Environmental activists say they have proof of a coal ash leak into the Neuse River during the flooding after Hurricane Matthew. Duke Energy says the substance visible on the water is not coal ash and is not toxic.
On the banks of the Neuse near three inactive coal ash pits at the HF Lee Steam Plant in Goldsboro, environmental activists skim for what they say is evidence that flooding compromised those pits. A white substance sits on the water surface and clings to the trees.
"You see that gray white line? That’s more coal ash," said Pete Harrison of the Waterkeeper Alliance.
"I think what this shows us is it's inherently dangerous to store coal ash in unlined pits in the flood zones of major rivers."
Duke spokesman Jeff Brooks says the white substance ash at all. It is what’s called “cenospheres.”
"They freely exist on top of our ash basins. They are harvested on a regular basis from the ash basins so they are not inherently toxic by nature," he said.
Duke Energy acknowledges some coal ash was displaced during the flood, but the state Department of Environmental Quality determined that amount was less than what could fit into the bed of a pickup truck and found it to be be non-toxic.
Environmental groups disagree and are in the process of doing their own testing. Brooks said Duke Energy would continue testing the water around the flood zones as well.