Earth Stewards Coal Ash Update

February 2015, one year since tons of toxic coal ash sludge leaked into the Dan River near Eden, here are some of the primary events in the year following the spill

This is the second in a series on the Coal Ash Spill of February 2014.

Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth.” Genesis 1:26

God has placed us in a fiduciary role in regards to His Creation. It’s been a year since at least 39,000 tons of toxic coal ash sludge leaked into the Dan River near Eden, North Carolina. It took a week to stem the flow. Here are some of the primary events that have taken place in this situation in the first year following the spill.

In June, officials from North Carolina and Virginia, the EPA and the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service reached agreements on Duke Energy’s responsibility to pay any reasonable cost associated with the clean up of this disaster in both North Carolina and Virginia. (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/10/us/duke-energy-agrees-to- fund-river-cleanup.html?_r=0).

In August, the General Assembly of North Carolina ratified the Coal Ash Management Act to begin working through the aftermath of the third largest coal ash spill in our nation. To date, about 10% of the damage has been cleaned up. A coalition representing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the State of North Carolina and the Commonwealth of Virginia are working together to complete injury assessment, evaluate restoration options and projects against the injuries and resolve damage claims in preparation to choose restoration projects. After all that is complete, restoration can actually begin. Working through the spill of February will be an extremely lengthy process.

In early December, new leaks into the Yadkin River were found from an old coal ash dump in Rowan County at the Buck Steam Station near Salisbury. Wastewater testing of the site by Waterkeeper’s Alliance found levels for some heavy metals and toxins which exceed state groundwater standards. Duke Energy may be permitted to“cap in place” the majority of the 33 sludge ponds which hold known carcinogens and heavy metals. This link identifies those sites and their proximity to water intakes for populated areas. http://jovianpfeil.cartodb.com/viz/5acdf89e-8f85-11e3-8156-0e625a1c94a6/public_map.

Duke has been ordered to close and excavate sites in Eden, Asheville, Mount Holly and Wilmington by August 1, 2019. The 17.5 million tons of coal ash in these four high risk sites must be stored somewhere else. Additionally, the Coal Ash Management Act, enacted after the February spill gave Duke Energy “broad powers to negotiate ash dumping without clearing it with local leaders or paying any local fees”. http://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/duke-energy-dumping-12-million-tons-of-coal-ash-near-sanford-trailer- park/Content?oid=4294618.

Residents of Sanford in rural Lee County have just learned that an old brick mine in their community is likely to be the future home of millions of tons of potentially toxic coal ash. Local government officials reportedly learned of this decision through news outlets. The CEO of Duke, Lynn Good, recently spoke with Lesley Stahl of 60 Minutes for a segment on the coal ash situation in North Carolina. You can view that interview here: http://www.cbsnews.com/videos/the-spill-at-dan-river-disrupting-cancer-the-city- of-music/. 

—Provided by the Earth Stewards Team