Tag Archives: Coal ash

Eden fights to set the record straight on coal ash spill

Dan River behind the spill

The Dan River in Eden, N.C., just above the Duke Energy plant and site of one of the nation’s worst coal-ash spills.

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, Dan River Steam plant, coal ash spill, Duke Energy, Eden

Brian Williams, a program manager with the Dan River Basin Association, dredges the river bottom across from the Duke Energy steam plant.

Unlined and Dangerous: Duke Energy’s 32 coal ash ponds in North Carolina pose a threat to groundwater

coal ash spill

Coal ash pulled from the bottom of the Dan River near the site of the Duke Energy spill in Eden, N.C. (Photo courtesy of Dan River Basin Association)

I posted this story to the National Geographic NewsWatch site in March 2014, just a month after the Duke Energy coal-ash spill in Eden, N.C., It made clear early on that coal ash stored in retaining ponds across the state was already threatening ground water in those places. The story caught on through social media and found thousands of readers.

Excerpt: “These coal ash ponds are unlined, and people don’t realize that,” said Dean Naujoks, the Yadkin Riverkeeper who has been monitoring the Dan River spill. “They are continuously leaching arsenic, chromium, cadmium, mercury, all kinds of toxic heavy metals, into the ground and eventually into groundwater. Duke Energy has 32 of these ponds on 14 sites around the state, and every one of them is unlined. Every one of them is a threat to groundwater.”