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@NCCapitol

@NCCapitol

Wastewater leaking system meant to repair pond that spilled coal ash

Posted February 13, 2014 5:01 p.m. EST
Updated February 13, 2014 5:37 p.m. EST

— 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."