One week later answers have changed from bad to good and from bad to worse. Hope still exists for minimal impact.

The lead person for the North Carolina Department of Environment & Natural Resources NCDENR now says that the potential impact to the John H. Kerr Reservoir from the coal ash spill just over a week ago at a defunct Eden, NC power plant on the Dan River will most probably be minimized due to the distance and the twists and turns of the Dan River.

Since the 82,000-ton coal ash spill which grayed the Dan on Sunday, February 2, KLPW has been posing one question to environmental and governmental agencies: “Will the coal ash spill have a serious contamination effect on Kerr Lake?”  There is at least an educated guess at that.

Speaking with KERR LAKE PARK WATCH, Tom Reeder the Director of the NC Division of Water Resources in NCDENR, which is the lead agency on the spill said, “DWR is in the process right now of developing and implementing a comprehensive monitoring and assessment strategy that will determine the extent of the effects, if any, of the coal ash release from the Duke Dan River Plant on Kerr Lake.  Due to the distance of Eden from Kerr Lake it is expected that most of the coal ash will have settled out of the water before it reaches the lake, but, due to the unique nature of this event it is impossible to predict the eventual outcome.  If any coal ash does reach the lake it will most likely be limited to the lake headwaters in Virginia.  NC DWR staff is prepared to partner with Virginia regulatory authorities to determine if any ash does reach the headwaters of Kerr Lake.   More detailed info on this comprehensive monitoring plan will be contained in my briefing to the ERC, Environmental Review Committee which is a non-standing legislative committee which convenes to study issues and incidents like the coal ash spill.”  The ERC committee will meet on the issue Wednesday.

In a phone meeting with KLPW’s Public Affairs head, Frank Timberlake, Reeder was asked about all the weather events that usually shape a wet and full lake pool in late winter and early spring at Kerr Lake.  Reeder responded, “Rainfall should provide not much impact either way.  If you have a lot of sediment near Danville, significant rainfall could make sediment move again a little farther downstream.”

Timberlake followed, “And what’s in the settling sediment that can harm people or wildlife?  Reeder responded, “It’s heavy metals, it’s really, my best guess they are more of a threat to aquatic life but it would have to be exposure over a long time.”

The Dan River, and some of Kerr Lake, is already deemed to be over safe limits on PCB’s and Mercury.  In a news release prepared Friday but released yesterday NCDENR said it had misread arsenic levels in the Dan River.  The release stated, “For the Dan River at and below the spill site in North Carolina, two separate standards (for arsenic levels) have been adopted and are enforced — one standard for aquatic life of 50 micrograms per liter, and one for human health of 10 micrograms per liter.

In DENR’s release of test results on Thursday, the agency was relying on surface water quality standards for aquatic life when reporting results. The arsenic concentrations collected on Feb. 3 below the spill site were 40 micrograms per liter at the site closest to the spill (Draper Landing) and 13 micrograms at the Virginia state line.”  Those indicate a higher than acceptable level of arsenic.

According to KLPW’s Timberlake, “Our sympathies go out to the people and to the river support organizations along the Dan River.  But the toughest thing is not facing what may or may not happen to Kerr Lake, the toughest thing is getting someone to give us a little straight talk.  That’s what we want.  In Tom Reeder’s case some of his initial findings may have varied, but he’s the first official who has stood up and tried to relate to our interest, Kerr Lake.”

There is concern within Kerr Lake Park Watch and other groups interested in the lake that NCDENR’s experience with such spills is limited.  “We feel a little better knowing that Reeder and some of his colleagues now are aware and probably taking advantage of the knowledge and historical base at the Corps of Engineers water research and resource group,” said Timberlake.  He refers to the ERDC branch of the Corps at Vicksburg, MS.  “Once the scrambling lightens up, I think it will be like the coal ash settling down, we should get some definitive answers about impact to Kerr Lake.”

-30-   END – Names and contacts of public officials with Kerr Lake management responsibilities can be furnished by contacting KLPW at


#ncdenr, #coalashspill, #kerrlakecontamination,  #environmentalmishaps,  #danriverdisaster, #kerrlake



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