Dan River Coal Ash
1:03 pm
Tue May 13, 2014

Duke Energy Sweeping the Dan River Clean

Expert crews are extracting thousands of tons of coal ash from the Dan River.

Duke Energy says it will monitor the quality of the Dan River for many years into the future to ensure it is safe for wildlife and area residents.
Duke Energy says it will monitor the quality of the Dan River for many years into the future to ensure it is safe for wildlife and area residents.
Credit Jason Miczek / Greenpeace

In Danville, Virginia, workers are at the Abreu-Gordon Park pulling out about 2,500 tons of the toxic coal ash from the Dan River. According to Duke Energy spokesman Jeff Brooks, they are using a technique that will be less threatening to the underwater environment. “Vacuum dredging uses a vacuum to pull the material from the deposit with minimal disturbance to the sediment below. So it’s advantageous in minimizing the disruptions to the environment while still while still removing that material," says Brooks. "Once it’s taken from the river, it will go through a process to separate the water from the sediment. Then returns the clean water to the river, dries the sediment for storage in a lined container to then be taken to a lined landfill.” That landfill is near Roxboro in Person County. Brooks also says chemical levels in the Dan River have returned to normal levels and the water is safe.

In February 2, an estimated 39,000 tons of coal ash leaked into the Dan River upstream of the city because of a ruptured storm water pipe at the retired Duke power plant in Eden. From now through June, 25-30 experts will be on-site vacuuming the sludge six days a week. Brooks says Duke Energy will monitor the affected areas for years to come to determine the best action to take. “In a lot of areas there is no coal ash, in some areas there are very small deposits or deposits that have been deposed beneath the layer of sediment in the river," explains Brooks. "So removing the material in those instances may cause more damage to the eco-system than leaving it in place.” According to Brooks, there is no cost estimate until the extraction is completed. The U.S. EPA and Duke Energy are overseeing the work along 70 miles of the Dan River.