Monday, February 02, 2015

One year later, News & Record series examines the impact of the Duke Energy coal ash spill

One year after a Duke Energy coal ash spill dumped about 82,000 tons of ash into the Dan River in North Carolina, prompting a debate about safety regulations and who was responsible for paying for the clean-up, the News & Record in Greensboro, N.C., has released an eight-part series, "The Day The River Turned Gray," examining the spill and the resulting aftermath of the event.

"At 6 that morning, a guard at the Duke Energy plant made his rounds and noticed that the coal ash ponds by the river were iced over," Taft Wireback reports in the first story of the series. "That’s all—nothing dramatic or unusual for a cold February dawn."

"But eight hours later, on that Super Bowl Sunday, that same guard checked again and did a double take. The water level in the larger of the two ponds looked suspiciously low," Wireback writes. "By midnight, a platoon of environmental experts was on the scene at the Dan River Steam Station, trying to staunch the third-largest coal ash spill in U.S. history. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency would later describe what happened that day at the retired power plant near Eden as the 'sudden collapse' of a drainage pipe running under the main pond."

"But the problems that led to that collapse were years in the making: years of coal fired power production at the riverside power plant; years of burnt coal waste accumulating in the nearby ponds; years of corrosion and seepage eating a seam into a vulnerable metal pipe beneath 1 million tons of coal ash; years of Duke Energy giving short shrift to early warnings from engineers about that very pipe; and years of state officials not always holding utility executives to high-enough dam safety standards," Wireback writes.

Other stories are:
Dan River Coal Ash Disaster: Most ash settled up to 25 miles downstream 
Dan River Coal Ash Disaster: Is the water safe to drink? 
Dan River Coal Ash Disaster: Did Duke Energy downplay severity in spill notification? 
Dan River Coal Ash Disaster: Stopping the leak took 4 days 
Dan River Coal Ash Disaster: A lack of oversight let flaws go undetected 
Dan River Coal Ash Disaster: Duke told about pipe failings
Dan River Coal Ash Disaster: Environmental impact could take years to determine 

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