More metal pipes found at Duke coal ash sites

Posted March 5, 2014

A broken pipe at a Duke Energy power plant in Eden dumped as much as 82,000 tons of coal ash into the Dan River on Feb. 2, 2014. (Photo courtesy of Appalachian Voices)

— Corrugated metal pipes similar to the one that ruptured last month and caused a massive coal ash spill at a retired Duke Energy power plant in Eden are in use at eight other Duke plants in North Carolina, the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources said Wednesday.

The Feb. 2 spill in the Dan River prompted a review of Duke's 14 current and retired coal-fired plants statewide.

The stormwater pipe in Eden was supposed to have been made of concrete, but the spill revealed that only the visible ends of the pipe were concrete and that cheaper corrugated metal had been used for the underground section of the conduit.

At that time, Duke and state regulators said they believed the Dan River coal ash site was the only place the failure-prone metal pipes had been used.

That assertion was cast into doubt Feb. 28, when DENR announced that another corroded metal stormwater pipe at Duke's Cliffside plant was found to be leaking groundwater near the Broad River in Rutherford County. 

DENR now says they were also informed Feb. 28 that Duke discovered corrugated metal pipes in use at seven other coal ash sites. None of those pipes run under an ash pond, as the one at Dan River did, but they are in overflow mechanisms that are in direct contact with ash and water. 

"The corrugated metal pipes identified by Duke Energy are used in risers (vertical pipes)  or spillway conduits (horizontal pipes connected to the risers) in the coal ash impoundments that redirect ash material when it reaches the top of the pipe to another lagoon or to the receiving water body," DENR spokesman Jamie Kritzer said. 

Coal Ash Dam Diagram

In addition to Cliffside, the pipes have been found at the Belew's Creek coal ash site in Stokes County, Buck in Rowan County, Marshall in Catawba County, Riverbend in Gaston County, Sutton in New Hanover County, Mayo in Person County, and Weatherspoon in Robeson County.  

According to a Wednesday press release from DENR, "State regulators plan to conduct detailed inspections of all Duke Energy’s coal ash facilities in North Carolina next week and will request that Duke Energy provide engineering and emergency action plans and maps for the facilities and videos of the insides of all pipes at the impoundments."

The release says state inspectors will also inspect and test all "discharge points" from coal ash lagoons, whether or not they're covered by a permit. 

“If we’re going to address these facilities in a deliberate and thoughtful manner, we first need comprehensive data about everything we can learn about these facilities,” Division of Water Quality chief Tom Reeder said in the release. “All of this information will inform our future decision-making with regard to these coal ash impoundments.”


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  • Eric Allgrim Mar 9, 2014
    user avatar

    So much for GOP promises of a low cost of living due to minimal government-corporate oversight. Can't wait to see what my electric bill will be when this is finally settled.

  • momeeee Mar 6, 2014

    Who was the inspector that signed off that the pipes were concrete and not metal? I am sure the site had to be inspected and this should have been caught.

  • Jim Frei Mar 6, 2014
    user avatar

    Corrugated metal pipe (CMP) has life span of about 40 years, maybe more if installed on a good bed of gravel and lined, less in a corrosive environment. Reinforced concrete pipe (RCP) should last 100 years or more.

  • ospreysilver Mar 6, 2014

    We are all compliance hypocrites, we praise the idea of Duke Energy the man being forced to spend millions on the cleanup and/or penalized for poisoning our rivers, but it’s not like any of us are going to stop using its services. You don’t see crack heads turning in their drug dealers to the police! And what are you going to do if they do raise your energy costs, not pay the bill and read by candle light? Just one more part of NC that looks trashy.

  • Andy Hairston Mar 6, 2014
    user avatar

    Original pipe was supposed to be made of concrete, but was metal disguised as concrete. Duke says that's the only metal pipe... then "finds" 7 more. How about $1B fine per lie?

  • borealbob1952 Mar 5, 2014

    Oh MY! Seek and yee shall find! Outta site outta mind- maybe if we ignore it - it will just go away- ya think?

  • cruzinlong Mar 5, 2014

    I still want to know, is ANY of the spill mess actually getting cleaned up yet?

  • Jeremy Gilchrist Mar 5, 2014
    user avatar

    Right now there is a protest ongoing at the Governor's Mansion asking him to come clean with his ties to Duke (along with the NC Legislature).

  • tobywilliamson1973 Mar 5, 2014

    Duke may be thinking that that ill fated merger was the wrong thing to do after all. I hope the government "burns them a new one" at their expense!! But, the government allowed the merger, so we will foot the bill anyway. Bring on the higher electric bills!

  • TarHeelBrit Mar 5, 2014

    Will anything come of this? any substantial fines? Nope as always Duke "knows people" in high places that will make this go away.