Wastewater leaking system meant to repair pond that spilled coal ash

Posted February 13, 2014

— A system put in place to help repair a pond that spilled thousands of gallons of toxic coal ash into the Dan River had problems itself and spilled 1,000 gallons of wastewater, according to a news release from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources. 

Duke Energy first discovered a spill from a coal ash pond at its retired Dan River Steam Station near Eden on Feb. 2. Company officials have estimated that the breach poured 80,000 tons of toxic coal ash, a byproduct of burning coal for power generation, into the Dan River near Eden. WRAL News learned earlier today that the federal government has opened a criminal investigation into the spill

This latest breach involved a piping system installed as part of the repairs to the pond, according to a DENR news release. The original spill involved a stormwater pipe that ran under the coal ash pond. That pipe broke, giving the toxic ash a route to the river. The emergency piping system was designed to send wastewater away from the pond. 

"The company reported that the newly constructed emergency piping system, at one point, did not work as intended and a backflow from the emergency system got into an existing pipe connection at the site and discharged into the Dan River," the news release said. "Duke reported to environmental regulators that the wastewater released from the emergency piping system to the Dan River contained yard drainage water, basement sump water and treated domestic wastewater from sources outside either coal ash lagoon."

A spokesman for the agency emphasized that the spill only happened over a short period of time and was repaired almost as soon as it happened. 

No additional coal ash was released as a result of the spill, according to the release. 

The news release also said, "It should also be noted that state and federal environmental regulators are responding to concerns regarding discharges and oddly colored rocks at a separate outfall near the failed coal ash basin. The EPA investigated the outfall yesterday and determined that the accumulation was naturally occurring iron bacteria or iron residue, which left the rocks with an orange color. EPA collected surface water and sediment samples to verify these conclusions. While all sampling was halted due to the weather Thursday, DENR plans to sample the water at this same site as soon as possible and will also continue its sediment and water quality sampling in the Dan River as weather permits."


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  • Justic4All Feb 14, 2014

    Good intentions and a dollar won't buy you a cup of coffee. Why does NC have all these waste ponds? Coal ash, pig manure, turkey ponds... The list goes on and on. Why can't NC deal with all this waste?

  • Robert Smith Feb 14, 2014
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    How long did Duke keep this a secret before telling the public, not the Governor. This is just like the Bridge incident in New Jersey. This administration will protect Duke Energy is where McCory used to work. It is very sad that he would rather protect duke Energy rather than the people of North Carolina who he is supposed to represent. McCory tell them how early you new about this and how you could let the state tell the people to start with there was no danger to the water. Bring a truck load of it to the mansion and drink and bathe in it to prove your words if it is so safe.

  • Pensive01 Feb 14, 2014

    View quoted thread

    McCrory has been in office over a year now, so calling him "just elected" is really reaching. However under no circumstances whatsoever can the republican majority in the Legislature be considered to be "just elected" as the republicans in the Legislature became the majority in 2011, following the 2010 election. The idea is simply ludicrous.

  • Terry Watts Feb 14, 2014
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    View quoted thread

    They were held accountable. We didn't re-elect them.

    But we understand you can't actual defend the current admin, and you can only point the finger at the previous admin... Its pretty weak, but we understand...

  • Earth Brooks Feb 14, 2014

    "Just think about it. Shouldn't a MULTI-BILLION dollar company be able to stop it's waste products from polluting important rivers? "

    That might cut into somebody's payday. What we see here is just a by-product of the GOPs "get government out of the way" crusade. They call it progress.

  • 2coolkids Feb 14, 2014

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    The current administration had three opportunities to deal with this over the past year. They chose to prevent environmental groups from suing, instead settling for a pittance, and didn't actually make Duke Power clean up the ponds. Maybe previous administrations are to blame. If so, we will all find out thanks to the criminal investigation opened by the federal government. I'm sure if McCrory and company have nothing to hide the investigation will show that. They should be grateful to the federal government for giving them an opportunity to prove it was someone else's fault.

  • doctoroe Feb 14, 2014

    Just think about it. Shouldn't a MULTI-BILLION dollar company be able to stop it's waste products from polluting important rivers? This is what happens when state bureaucrats are in bed with corporations. Either Democrat or Repub.

  • Jack Jones Feb 14, 2014
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    Hopefully this disaster is enough of a "wake up call" to stop the Republican agenda of dismantling environmental and safety regulations. Republicans have been in control of both houses since 2010 elections. The responsibility falls on NC republicans and ALEC.

  • stymieindurham Feb 14, 2014

    Im open to suggestions so can anybody give me a good reason to believe anything duke/mc crory has to say on this?

    Wait a minute now!!!!!! McCroy and the Republican majority were just elected. Who WAS in office prior? Did this issue just happen over night? I don't see anyone from the previous majority being asked to be held accountable. Stop playing your politics and get this done right!!!

  • dennis8 Feb 14, 2014

    The wording of the headline is horrid. Any reporter or editor should be ashamed to word something in that way. Had to read the article to figure out what the headline actually meant.