Gray Muck in NC River Near Flooded Coal Ash Dump

Mindy Sparks
September 24, 2018

Sutton Lake is located upstream and northwest of Wilmington, which has taken the brunt of Hurricane Florence's impact.

Floodwaters on Friday breached a dam that contains a man-made lake connected to a Duke Energy power plant in North Carolina, possibly causing coal ash to flow into the nearby Cape Fear River, the company said.

Thorpe said state environmental regulators were waiting on the results of their own testing before determining whether there were any violations of clean water quality rules.

Duke reported two coal ash leaks from a retired plant in Wilmington, North Carolina, following storm Florence. "It has a very different chemical makeup than those materials that are being excavated and out into our landfill right now".

Lake water quality remains good Earlier in the week, Hurricane Florence, which produced a historic rainfall totaling more than 30 inches at the plant, caused several areas of significant erosion at the coal ash landfill now under construction. The gray ash left behind when coal is burned contains toxic heavy metals, including arsenic, lead and mercury. The ash is used as construction fill to build roads, but utilities produced more ash than was needed by the construction industry and stored the excess in open-air pits filled with water.

The rising waters also swamped a 625-megawatt natural gas plant near the site, forcing it to shut down, the company said. The results show a slight increase in contamination, but well below permitted regulatory limits, Duke said.

Oil and gas presence was under 5 milligrams per liter on Tuesday and on Friday. The site received more than 30 inches (75 centimeters) of rain from former Hurricane Florence, with the Cape Fear River expected to crest Saturday.

Fears about the situation at Duke's L.V. Sutton power plant near Wilmington have been growing since before Hurricane Florence made landfall.

DEQ hopes to have results by mid-week. "The company is conducting environmental sampling as well", the company said.


No environmental regulators were at the scene to help catalog the potential harm to the Cape Fear, with officials citing unsafe conditions. Environmental groups also collected samples from the river that would be sent to a private lab.

But Lisa Evans, a senior attorney specializing in hazardous waste for the environmental law firm Earthjustice, said cenospheres are part of coal ash and that its unlikely that part of coal byproducts would spill but not other potentially harmful substances. "Our Department of Environmental Quality is on it", said Governor Coopers.

"Teams from three Department of Environmental Quality regulatory divisions have been closely monitoring conditions at Duke Energy's Sutton facility, remaining in close contact with onsite engineers throughout the week".

Duke Energy said on September 19, that water samples collected by its employees and tested at the company's own lab showed "no evidence of a coal ash impact" to Sutton Lake or the Cape Fear River.

The company had placed a 2.5-foot-high inflatable berm around the top of a second pond that has more coal ash in it. Gore estimated that 200,000 tons of ash are in a corner of the pond furthest from the rising Waccamaw River.

State officials said they have received reports that the earthen dam at one hog lagoon in Duplin County had breached over the weekend, spilling feces and urine. The Duke spokeswoman Sheehan said any coal ash release at the Goldsboro site appeared "minimal".

Duke spokeswoman Paige Sheehan said on September 20, that the dam containing Sutton Lake appears stable and they are monitoring the situation with helicopters and drones to react to what she called "an evolving situation".

Duke is also bound by the 2014 Coal Ash Management Act to store coal ash in a way that doesn't threaten public health, either by removing the ash to lined landfills, or by securing it in existing pits that are not known to be polluting groundwater. It plans to close all its ash dumps by 2029.

Other reports by Iphone Fresh

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