Council to discuss coal ash concerns

Jun. 21, 2014 @ 04:19 PM

Five months after the spill of toxic coal ash into the Dan River, members of the Henderson City Council will discuss its impact on Kerr Lake and the need for further testing by the Kerr Lake Regional Water System.

Regional water system Director Christy Lipscomb will present internal testing data done since the spill, including sample tests on water from the water treatment plant starting Feb. 4 until Feb. 10 at daily, four-hour intervals.

Lipscomb said Duke Energy contracted with Pace Analytical Labs to conduct testing immediately following the spill on Feb. 2. Her report states the spill released 50,000 to 82,000 tons of coal ash into the Dan River, which runs about 200 miles in North Carolina and Virginia.

A collapsed storm water pipe located beneath the coal ash impoundment and along the river at Duke’s Dan River Steam Station in Eden caused the massive spill.

Her report to the council also states sample testing was done twice daily from Feb. 11 until Feb. 28 when sampling ended.

City Manager Ray Griffin said the item on the council’s work session agenda is for discussion and an opportunity for board members to ask Lipscomb any questions they might have.

The water samples from Kerr Lake were tested for toxic ingredients of coal ash — such as arsenic, selenium, lead, mercury and thallium. Her report states lab testing indicated toxic materials were not found to exceed state or federal water quality standards.

The most recent testing by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in Kerr Lake was done in early April. Those tests did not detect coal ash in amounts harmful to human health.

The council and Vance County Commissioners have already passed a resolution asking Duke Energy to move all of its coal ash from unlined ponds to other more appropriate facilities sited away from waterways — especially those that provide drinking water — to prevent it from happening again.

Gov. Pat McCrory has proposed legislation that would eventually close all 33 ash ponds at 14 sites in the state and convert all coal-fired plants to dry fly ash handling systems, which means the ash would not be mixed with water in the storage process.

The proposed legislation calls for the removal of coal ash ponds from four Duke Energy sites, including the one in Eden, to a lined landfill, which helps prevent toxic chemicals from leaching into the groundwater.

N.C. Rep. Nathan Baskerville, who represents District 32, released a statement June 20 demanding an immediate and full cleanup by Duke Energy without passing the cost onto the customers.

“I have drafted a bill that prohibits Duke Energy from passing the cleanup and site closure costs to its customers, and hope to get support from all members for it,” he wrote in the release.

Baskerville did not respond Saturday to calls seeking comment.

Contact the writer at smansur@hendersondispatch.com.