Kerr Lake safe, but officials still urge caution

Apr. 25, 2014 @ 07:38 PM

North Carolina and Virginia health authorities have said Kerr Lake is safe for recreational use, but they still advise swimmers and boaters to use caution.

Information released by the Virginia Department of Health and N.C. Department of Health and Human Services on Thursday states sample results from the reservoir for metals found in coal ash are well below levels of concern for recreational use.

“However, if a swimmer comes in contact with what appears to be coal ash, health officials recommend thoroughly washing off with soap and water,” the release states.

Following the coal ash spill in February, DHHS issued a hazard advisory immediately downstream of the Dan River Steam Station where the spill occurred.

Public health officials with the state health department are recommending that people avoid recreational contact with water and sediment in the Dan River in North Carolina downstream of the spill site.

On Feb. 2, a storm water pipe collapsed beneath one of the coal ash ponds at Duke Energy’s Dan River Steam Station plant.

The collapse caused 30,000 to 39,000 tons of coal ash to enter the Dan River and as much as 27 million tons of coal ash-laced water.

Local environmental activists held an informational meeting Thursday night at Perry Memorial Library where several residents raised questions about consuming fish from Kerr Lake.

The Virginia Health Department has an existing fish consumption advisory for Kerr Lake because of historical activities not associated with the coal ash release.

The release stated an analysis of the fish tissue samples collected from the Dan River after the coal ash spill does not warrant additional fish consumption advisories.

Andrew Lester, executive director of the Roanoke River Basin Association, said the existing fish advisories at Kerr Lake in North Carolina covers certain specifies, such as largemouth bass and catfish.

Lester, who spoke at Thursday’s meeting, said the damage to Kerr Lake appears minimal at this stage.

“But we won’t know the impact for quite a while,” he said. “It may be a matter of years before we know the full impact on the Dan River.”


Contact the writer at smansur@hendersondispatch.com.