WRAL: Lawmakers Look At Coal Ash Spill – NC Governor On Defensive

FROM WRAL & NEWS REPORTS – State lawmakers on Monday took their first long look in five years at regulating coal ash ponds at North Carolina power plants – and it likely is the first of several this year after a massive ash spill in the Dan River two weeks ago.

No action was taken during the four-hour meeting of the Environmental Review Commission, which also reviewed a recent spill of 3.5 million gallons of untreated sewage in the Haw River at Burlington.

Duke Energy has estimated up to 82,000 tons of ash spilled from two ponds at a defunct coal-fired power plant in Eden after a storm water pipe that ran under the ponds ruptured on Feb. 2. The ash, which is left over after coal is burned, contains arsenic and various heavy metals.

Coal Ash Spill


At times Monday, it seemed as if state regulators were on the same side as Duke, with both stating they’ve done everything required by law to deal with the spill. Environmental advocates angered by the spill were on the other side of the argument, urging lawmakers to crack down on Duke to prevent another spill.

Duke environmental director George Everett apologized to lawmakers for the spill and reiterated a pledge made 10 days ago by Paul Newton, the utility’s North Carolina president, to do whatever it takes to rectify the problem.

“We sure do appreciate that Duke Energy’s taken responsibility for it. It’s hard to imagine who else would take responsibility for it,” said Jenny Edwards, program manager for the Dan River Basin Association. “We look forward to see what the plan is to remediate what’s happened to our river.”

Everett said Duke halted the flow of ash-laden water into the river as quickly as possible, noting the solution took some planning and some engineering to ensure it would work. Duke has blocked off the ruptured pipe and plans to remove a second storm water line under the ash ponds, he said.

Sen. Austin Allran, R-Catawba, called placing a storm water drain under toxic ponds “kind of dumb” and questioned why Duke didn’t routinely inspect the pipe and didn’t line the ponds so they wouldn’t leak.

Everett said the ponds were created decades ago in an age when dumps weren’t lined. The storm water line was there even before the ponds were expanded over it, he said.

Tom Reeder, director of the Division of Water Resources, also noted that there are no federal regulations regarding handling coal ash, although some are expected later this year.

Meanwhile, the media continues to dig at Governor Pat McCrory’s ties to Duke Power.  In one of the most recent developments, it’s been made public that McCrory holds Duke Power stock in his 401K plan.  That is on top of charges that NCDENR has not been as tough about coal ask storage as might be necessary.

Posted in: KLPW - Environmental, KLPW - MAIN NEWS, KLPW - WATER RELATED

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