After 39,000 tons of toxic coal ash rom Duke Energy retention ponds spilled into the Dan River just outside Eden, N.C., in early February 2014, the news coverage by local, state and national media was intense. I wrote early on about the environmental impact, too, but saw a larger business story. Two-thirds of the Dan River was unaffected by the spill, yet the communities, and businesses, along that still-clean stretch of the river couldn’t be heard above the outcry over the massive spill. My cover story in the Triad Business Journal explores that angle.
Excerpt: “Add this irony for Eden and a host of Dan River communities west — upstream — of the spill: Their Dan River has no coal ash. It is just as clean and safe as in the days before the massive spill. That simple point has been lost in the great deluge of ongoing media coverage. Eden and Rockingham County have perhaps never gotten so much sustained national attention. Virtually all of it negative. Water, and coal ash, flow downstream. But a toxic perception has flowed in both directions.”
Brian Williams, a program manager with the Dan River Basin Association, dredges the river bottom across from the Duke Energy steam plant.