| RALEIGH, N.C.
RALEIGH, N.C. Feb 25 State regulators in North
Carolina may force Duke Energy Corp to move thousands of
tons of coal ash from storage ponds at a power plant to a lined
landfill after a massive spill this month contaminated water and
wildlife in the Dan River.
The state's Department of Environmental and Natural
Resources (DENR) said on Tuesday that it planned to modify a
permit that has allowed Duke to discharge certain amounts of
wastewater from its retired facility in Eden, North Carolina,
into the river.
At least 30,000 tons of toxic coal ash were released into
the Dan River when a pipe broke under the 27-acre (11-hectare)
ash pond in a spill discovered on Feb. 2. State officials found
a second leak of arsenic-laced discharge from another pipe
during their investigation.
Both leaks have been plugged, according to Duke and the
state regulator. Two towns in neighboring Virginia, Danville and
South Boston, get their drinking water from the river.
Tom Reeder, director of the regulator's Division of Water
Resources, said his agency is focusing on how to protect the
river now that the spills have been stopped.
"Based on our investigation of this spill, one option under
consideration right now is to eliminate all coal ash waste
discharges coming from this facility and require that Duke
Energy move the coal ash waste stored onsite to a lined landfill
away from any waterways," Reeder said in a statement.
Duke has 60 days to comment on proposed changes to the
"We will respond to the state and work to determine the most
appropriate resolution," Duke spokesman Thomas Williams
said. "As we have stated, our company is taking another look at
how we manage ash basins."
The landfill solution has been long favored by
environmentalists concerned about the risks posed by the ash.
"It is a good sign that DENR has, in writing, embraced our
solution of moving the coal ash out of these unlined lagoons,"
said Frank Holleman, senior attorney with the Southern
Environmental Law Center. "But we need action, not merely
Federal prosecutors have issued subpoenas to employees of
Duke and the state environmental regulator as part of a widening
probe into possible felony violations at North Carolina's 14
coal ash sites.
The agency has come under fire for its handling of the
state's coal ash ponds, which it concedes are contaminating
groundwater. It filed suit against Duke last year, and then
proposed a settlement that environmental groups oppose.
That proposed settlement has been on hold since the spill.
In a letter dated Feb. 20, DENR notified a judge that it may
move forward with the settlement. The agency must decide by
March 21 how to proceed.
While the action announced by the state on Tuesday would
apply only to the Dan River site, a task force within the agency
is reviewing discharge permits at the state's 13 other coal ash
sites, all owned by Duke.
Drinking water from the river has been deemed safe once it
is treated. State officials started testing fish tissue this
week to determine if fish from the river is safe to eat. They
have advised people not to eat the fish for now and to avoid
prolonged contact with the water.