Coal Ash Chronicles

Posts tagged contamination

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Amy Adams says Duke Energy must face this threat


The Dan River power plant that was the site of February’s coal ash disaster – the nation’s third-largest coal ash spill — is actually the baby of Duke Energy’s coal fleet. Compared to the company’s other coal ash pits, the one at Dan River is relatively small.

The coal ash impoundment at the Belews Creek power plant, on the other hand, is a behemoth. At approximately 342 acres and holding more than 4 billion gallons of toxic coal ash, about 20 times more than Dan River, the Belews site is the largest in Duke’s fleet. In fact, it’s one of the largest in the Southeast. As a point of comparison: the Kingston, Tenn., coal ash site that catastrophically failed in 2008 was 92 acres and had a capacity for almost 3 billion gallons.

Filed under Duke Energy coal ash NC North Carolina waste pollution Dan River Belews Creek water contamination health environment wildlife tourism jobs

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The Environmental Integrity Project releases an "Ashtracker"

From a press release:

Today, the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP) is launching the new Ashtracker website ( The database contains 39,080 groundwater quality readings at 1,010 monitoring wells near 30 ash waste sites in 16 states from Florida to North Dakota. The 30 sites are a subset of the hundreds of coal ash disposal areas across the country. EIP will be progressively adding new disposal areas over the coming months. Of the currently listed groundwater monitoring wells, 828 (82 percent) have exceeded U.S. Environmental Protection Agency safe drinking water thresholds for one or more pollutants in the last four years.

“Many of these coal-ash landfills are ticking time bombs and need to be cleaned up,” said Schaeffer, former Director of Civil Enforcement at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. “People have a right to know who is responsible for contaminating their groundwater, rivers, and streams.”

Filed under coal ash ash tracker ashtracker Environmental Integrity Project EIP database groundwater contamination water pollution water pollution health environment

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Discharge from Belews Creek power plant affects water quality

The company has known about this ‘other’ contamination issue on the Dan River for some time and is covering some of the costs to upgrade Eden, N.C.’s — and other municipalities’ — drinking water treatment plants because of it.

By the way, here’s a post we did on this back in February.


From this power plant, a coal-waste substance known as bromide, discharged legally into the tributary, has been causing trouble for the downstream town of Madison and the city of Eden, as well as buyers of Madison’s and Eden’s drinking water, such as Rockingham County and Henry County, Va., according to public-record emails between officials with the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

Filed under Duke Energy Dan River Belews Creek coal ash pollution contamination bromide water environment health

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Note: This is just part one; more to come.

Dr. Dennis Lemly, a biologist with Wake Forest University and the U.S. Forest Service, began investigating coal ash on the Dan River in the 1970s when he realized that the fish he was trying to study were dying. He found that a Duke Energy coal ash impoundment at its Belews Creek plant was polluting the river, and because of it 19 of 20 species of fish died.

Listen to Lemly explain his work and his concerns about coal ash in this unedited interview. I also suggest you look into his published studies, reports, and articles.

It took about a year and a public thrashing to get this interview with Dr. Lemly. (Background:

Filed under Dennis Lemly coal ash selenium Duke Energy Dan River Belews Creek contamination fish pollution water

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Photo from Waterkeeper: Dan River “ash pond is still dumping coal ash”


Laboratory analysis of the discharge (visible on this map at point “D”) confirmed that it contains multiple pollutants that are characteristic of coal ash, including the toxic heavy metals arsenic and chromium. Arsenic concentrations measured .187 mg/L, more than 18 times the human health standard and over 3 times the applicable water quality standard. Meanwhile on Wednesday, Duke Energy began vacuuming ash from last week’s spill out of the river, and pumping it back into the leaking impoundment.

Filed under Duke Energy Dan River coal ash spill water pollution contamination

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Reverberations of a coal ash spill

It took more than a billion gallons of toxic waste pouring into Tennessee’s Emory River in 2008 to wake federal and state regulators up to the growing problem of disposing and storing coal ash, the by-product of burning coal.

That spill, which has now cost more than a billion dollars to clean up, led to the realization that the country had more than a thousand ponds, half unlined, holding coal ash and toxins seeping through the ground and leaching into drinking water supplies.

That includes 37 ponds in North Carolina, 29 of which the Environmental Protection Agency has rated “high hazard” — where a spill has the potential for catastrophic damage and loss of life. Sixteen of those sites have been identified as contaminated.

Read the entire article.

Filed under coal ash spill pollution contamination TVA Dan River Duke Energy NC NCpol NCga NC Policy Watch

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NCDENR info on groundwater contamination at Dan River coal plant

Important to understand: The groundwater near every unlined coal ash pond in North Carolina was contaminated before the Dan River coal ash spill. (Report.)

Now, keep in mind that the coal industry made a deal with the EPA in 2000 that it would self-monitor groundwater at its coal ash ponds in exchange for the agency NOT regulating coal ash. Unfortunately, some of those groundwater wells weren’t sunk until the same month as the 2008 TVA coal ash disaster.

In 2010, N.C. forced Progress Energy and Duke Energy (now the same company) to sink more groundwater monitoring wells. So, much of the information we have about groundwater contamination is relatively recent but unfortunately not readily available.

A little background:

The N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources responded via email, which is pasted here:

Easier to email this than tweet it.

A discussion of the impacts to groundwater from the Duke Energy Dan River power station ash ponds can be found on the DENR website section that deals with the department’s motions for injunctive relief:

The link for Duke Energy Carolinas, LLC Complaint and Motion for Injunctive Relief takes you to this file:

The section on the Dan River Combined Cycle Station begins on page 28 of that file. This is where we have a discussion of groundwater impacts.

The plant has recorded exceedances of groundwater standards at or beyond the compliance boundary for antimony, arsenic, boron, iron, manganese, total dissolved solids, and sulfate. A chart of exceedances data for this facility is available as Exhibit No. 10 -

It is my understanding there are no drinking water wells in the vicinity.

Let me know if you need anything else.

Michele Walker, Public Information Officer

N.C. Dept. of Environment & Natural Resources
Office of Public Affairs/Division of Coastal Management

My response:

Thank you, Michelle. I’m sorry it has taken me so long to return your email.

I’d like to get the groundwater sampling results from Duke Energy’s Dan River plant. I’m not sure how often they’re submitted – I know that they’re submitted quarterly for the Riverbend plant near Charlotte, so I’m assuming it’s something like that. I’ll tell you that when I first requested Riverbend’s groundwater numbers, NCDENR told me I had to come to Raleigh to get them and then made me pay to copy them … so, I did. Not long after that, I met with Sen. Kay Hagan’s office and told them that story; they let me know that they’d back me up if that ever happened again.

So, I’m asking once more: Please email me the groundwater sampling results for Dan River’s coal ash ponds for as long as NCDENR has record of them. Please.

And thank you.

Best regards,

Rhiannon Fionn

Independent journalist and the creator of Coal Ash Chronicles, a film about America’s second-largest and mostly unregulated waste stream.

You know I’ll update you once I hear back.

Filed under NCDENR Duke Energy coal ash water contamination pollution groundwater NCga NCpol Kay Hagan

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Prior to Dan River spill, Duke Energy working with Eden, N.C., water authority because of coal ash contaminants from Belews Creek plant

From: Rhiannon Fionn []

Sent: Friday, February 07, 2014 9:22 AM
To: Hoffmann, Lisa M
Subject: Belews Creek + Eden’s water supply + bromide


I’ve heard from someone at the Eden water treatment plant, upstream of the spill. I asked him if he had anything to worry about from the spill. He said no, not from that spill, but what they have to worry about is the bromide that comes down from Belews Creek’s ash discharge. Although Eden hasn’t had to treat for bromide yet, he said Duke is about to start paying for some water treatment for bromide.

Is this true?


Rhiannon Fionn

(704) 577-0817



Bromide leaves the Belews Creek plant from its scrubber process to meet air quality standards. Bromide itself is not a health concern in the river, but when it reacts with the chlorine in the municipal water treatment process, it can contribute to forming trihalomethanes (TTHMs) that are regulated for the drinking water supply.

Many water systems nationally with no bromide in their source water also experience elevated TTHMs because of warmer temperatures, higher organic content in water and lower turnover of treated water in pipes, among other factors. We felt participating in a solution was the right thing to do, and Duke Energy has been partnering with the city for a few years to research different options. We also are helping to fund the city’s conversion to another disinfection method. There is no federal or state surface water quality standard for bromide and, therefore, no limit in the plant’s permit for it.

The city of Eden’s drinking water meets all state and federal drinking water standards, and this is a proactive step to ensure it meets more stringent standards in the future.




Erin Culbert, APR

Corporate Communications

Duke Energy


And, I’m assuming – because that’s how it reads – that you’re doing this without being forced to by regulation or legislation, is that correct?

Thank you for filling me in on this, Erin.


Yes, that’s correct. Thanks.


Erin Culbert, APR

Corporate Communications

Duke Energy

Filed under Duke Energy Dan River Eden NC Belews Creek coal ash pollution contamination bromide water treatment

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Five Years After Kingston's Coal Ash Disaster... We Get West Virginia — Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation

Filed under coal ash Charlotte CLT Gastonia NC North Carolina Mecklenburg County Gaston County Mountain Island Lake Lake Norman Lake Wylie drinking water contamination pollution Waterkeeper Alliance Catawba Riverkeeper