Monday, February 10, 2014

North Carolina officials admit they wrongly declared Dan River safe after coal-ash spill; feds probe state

UPDATE, Feb. 13: "Federal authorities have launched a criminal investigation into North Carolina's environmental agency," The Associated Press reports. "The U.S. attorney's office in Raleigh issued a grand jury subpoena demanding records from the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources. They include emails, memos and reports from 2010 through the Feb. 2 spill."

North Carolina's Department of Environment and Natural Resources admitted Sunday "it wrongly declared all test results for the arsenic levels in the Dan River as safe for people after a massive coal ash spill" from a retired Duke Energy coal-fired power plant, Emery Dalesio reports for The Associated Press. (AP photo by Gerry Broome: Coal ash in the Dan River in Danville, Va.)

"A water sample taken Feb. 3, two days after the spill was discovered, was four times higher than the maximum level for people to have prolonged contact, such as swimming." Division of Water Resources director Tom Reeder said in a statement: "We made an honest mistake while interpreting the results."

Duke said "up to 82,000 tons of ash from a coal-burning power plant mixed with 27 million gallons of contaminated water escaped," Dalesio writes. Duke said it fixed the leak Saturday. "A water sample collected Tuesday showed arsenic levels that were considered safe for people, said Dianne Reid, head of environmental sciences for the water resources division." But the sample was taken "two miles downstream from the plant, rather than closer to the spill site where two environmental groups reported readings far exceeding safety standards." (Read more)

"Most power plants are built along waterways because plants use large amounts of water and steam to run operations," Stephanie Soucheray explains for North Carolina Health News. "Coal ash ponds became common features of these sites in the last 50 years, and it was only in 2010 that the EPA proposed regulating coal ash." The agency is still thinking about it and has until Dec. 19 to propose regulations.

No comments: