Activists hosting coal ash meeting

Groups hope to spur residents to action
Apr. 22, 2014 @ 07:40 PM

Residents interested in learning more about the recent Duke Energy coal ash spill can attend an informational meeting Thursday evening at Perry Memorial Library.

The event, organized by local environmental activists and the Roanoke River Basin Association, is a call to join forces and demand a comprehensive clean up of the entire affected river system. The meeting is open to the public, begins at 6 p.m. and is scheduled for the Farm Bureau room.

The Dan River Steam Station in Eden was the site of a Feb. 2 coal ash spill, which is the third worst-such spill in the country. The Dan River flows from Eden into Virginia and eventually empties into Kerr Lake, a man-made reservoir with 850 shoreline miles and the primary source of drinking water for thousands in the Tri-County area.

A storm pipe broke beneath a coal ash pond at the Eden facility, causing 50,000 to 82,000 tons of ash to enter the Dan River. This would fill between 20 and 32 Olympic-size swimming pools.

As much as 27 million gallons of coal ash-laced basin water reached the river.

N.C. Department of the Environment and Natural Resources spokesman Jamie Kritzer said Gov. Pat McCrory has proposed a comprehensive coal ash clean-up plan, but it has not yet been introduced to the state legislature.

The plan would result in the conversion or closure of all the state’s coal ash ponds, close loopholes in state law to strengthen the state’s ability to regulate coal ash ponds, eliminate special exemptions for utilities and increase regulatory authority to ensure dam safety and protect water quality.

DENR, the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are testing water and sediment samples, which show only trace amounts of coal ash so far in Kerr Lake.

But DENR, along with Southern Environmental Law Center, has filed lawsuits claiming that all 14 of Duke Energy’s coal ash impoundments in North Carolina violate state and federal environmental regulations.

Those suits are pending.

Frank Holleman, a senior attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center, said his group requested Duke Energy clean up contaminated surface water discharging from the coal ash impoundments and groundwater pollution leaching from these unlined impoundments long before the Dan River spill in February.

“The governor and DENR have yet to take direct action to enforce the clean up and that would be in the public interest,” he said.

 

Contact the writer at smansur@hendersondispatch.com.