NC Will Permanently Halt Coal Ash Discharges To Dan River

Feb 25, 2014

State regulators announced today that they will not allow a coal ash pond on the bank of the Dan River to resume its normal operation, after at least 30,000 tons of the toxic leftovers from burning coal spilled into the river. 

The primary coal ash pond at the Dan River plant, after a pipe broke, spilling 30,000 tons of coal and 27 million gallons of water into the river.
Credit USFWS/Southeast

Regulators throughout the state – and the country – let coal ash ponds discharge a small portion of their ashy water into public rivers and lakes. The idea is that the polluted water, containing arsenic and other toxic heavy metals, gets diluted and doesn’t harm the larger water body. When a Duke Energy ash pond failed at the Dan River, so did that idea.

“What we had was a catastrophic event that put a great deal of ash pond material and water into this river, in an amount never anticipated,” says Susan Massengale, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

The state gave Duke 60-days notice on Monday that it will revise the company’s permit for the Dan River ash pond.

“The goal of that modification is to eliminate the possibility of any more material getting into that river,” says Massengale.

Massengale says the agency has not decided if it will require Duke to remove the ash from the bank of the Dan or seal it up on-site.

Duke has said for more than a year it intends to seal all of the ash ponds at its retired coal plants, including the Dan. Both the company and the state are reevaluating coal ash storage statewide, after the spill.