Editorial: Disappearing act needs inspection

Aug. 04, 2014 @ 11:29 PM

Where’s the coal ash? By all accounts, thankfully, it has not arrived in Kerr Lake.

But its enthusiasts should beware, and not necessarily limited to any day soon.

What we know so far is a containment pond at the Eden facility of Duke Energy spilled coal ash into the Dan River on Feb. 2. The Dan winds its way into Virginia and back to North Carolina before it reaches Kerr Lake.

We also know testing at the lake has assured no dangerous levels. Coal ash — the waste left when coal is burned — contains arsenic, mercury and lead, as well as more than a dozen heavy metals, many of which are toxic.

We know Duke Energy, the nation’s largest power company, said five days after the spill it would “do the right thing for the river and surrounding communities.” It agreed it was accountable.

Unconfirmed facts have us worried.

The amount of the spill has varied, but it is believed to be 39,000 tons of coal ash and 27,000 million gallons of contaminated wastewater. Originally we heard 82,000 tons of coal ash.

In mid-July, Duke Energy announced completion of cleanup operations in the river. Duke said it has removed about 3,000 tons of coal ash and sediment. That’s not even 10 percent of the smaller number.

The Environmental Protection Agency has approved. Environmentalists have not.

President George W. Bush was aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln on May 1, 2003, with a banner: “Mission Accomplished.” We wanted to believe his news on Iraq, and we want to believe Duke Energy now.

Pete Harrison is a Waterkeeper Alliance attorney. He’s more blunt. “This arrogant announcement from Duke Energy is the ultimate insult to the people of North Carolina and Virginia whose river has been devastated by the company’s toxic ash spill.”

We’re concerned with how North Carolina’s government will act regarding other coal ash ponds in the state. Anyone living downstream of one should be hollering at their representation that just left Raleigh to go home.

More than 90 percent of the coal ash unaccounted for, with no government backlash, is unsatisfactory.