Results on coal ash still pending

Officials: Early tests show no contamination in Kerr Lake
Apr. 14, 2014 @ 06:45 PM

It could be several weeks before Kerr Lake residents and visitors know whether coal ash has spread downstream to from Danville, Va., to Vance County.

The Environmental Protection Agency recently collected water samples from Kerr Lake to test for toxic metals and the presence of coal ash, but the results won’t be available for weeks.

Several environmental agencies, including the EPA and U.S. Coast Guard, have reported spotting some grayish material along the banks of Kerr Lake at the Staunton Boat Ramp in Virginia, according to staff from the N.C. Division of Water Resources.

In the meantime, the director of the Kerr Lake Regional Water System said there is no indication of coal ash in the lake just yet.

“No test results are back, but preliminary test results have shown nothing,” said Christy Lipscomb.

Last week, she reported to the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources that a boater claimed he recently spotted coal ash in the southern part of Kerr Lake.

The boater, John Soles, said he observed a grayish substance along the rocks on the shoreline of near Ivy Hill, which is north of Clarksville, Va., on the North Carolina-Virginia border.

DENR has also taken water samples from Kerr Lake, and those results are still pending.

At the water system’s advisory board meeting Monday, Lipscomb said coal ash has not been detected as far downstream as Clarksville, and her department is not conducting independent testing until there is confirmation of coal ash in Clarksville, Va.

The concerns raised about coal ash in Kerr Lake stems from the Feb. 2 collapse of a storm-water pipe beneath the coal ash impoundment at Duke Energy’s Dan River Steam Station in Eden.

As much as 82,000 tons of coal ash flowed into the Dan River after the pipe collapsed along with 27 million gallons of contaminated water.

Coal ash is the by-product of burning powdered coal to generate electricity. It contains high levels of toxic elements, including lead, mercury, selenium, arsenic and thallium.

Contact the writer at smansur@hendersondispatch.com.