Environment
6:09 pm
Fri February 7, 2014

Environmental Group's Water Quality Report From Dan River Coal Ash Spill Released

Environmental regulators say they are still waiting on tests to determine whether the poisonous sludge had seeped into water supplies in North Carolina and Virginia, but several environmental groups have been conducting some of their own testing.

A mix of sludge and coal ash lines the banks of the Dan River in Eden. Scientists with the Waterkeeper Alliance are among several environmental groups who are monitoring the river.
A mix of sludge and coal ash lines the banks of the Dan River in Eden. Scientists with the Waterkeeper Alliance are among several environmental groups who are monitoring the river.
Credit Waterkeeper Alliance

The non-profit Waterkeeper Alliance has released results from water quality tests of the Dan River in the wake of a massive coal ash spill. Duke Energy officials said 50 to 80,000 tons of coal ash spilled into the Dan River near Eden after a break in a four-foot storm water pipe.

Donna Lisenby, the global coal campaign coordinator for the Waterkeeper Alliance, says test results from samples the group took Tuesday found levels of chemicals including arsenic and lead that greatly exceeded EPA water quality standards for fish and wildlife.

Left untreated, those levels would also be unsafe for humans to drink. The water will be treated before it becomes drinking water, but she says that won’t happen for the wildlife that the river supports.

The state Department of Environment and Natural Resources is conducting its own tests. Preliminary results showed normal levels for water temperature, pH, dissolved oxygen and conductivity. But Lisenby says that doesn’t mean the water is safe.

The Department is undergoing further testing for levels of 28 chemicals including cadmium and mercury. Lisenby says other non-profits and academic researchers are also monitoring the water quality.

Duke Energy officials say that the source of the break has been found and work is underway to repair it. During the process, however, some leakage is still getting into the river.

Meanwhile, Gov. Pat McCrory toured the Duke Energy facility this week. McCrory went to the Dan River Steam Station in Eden Thursday afternoon as crews were still trying to permanently stop the spill. A temporary plug has helped to slow the spill.

In a statement Thursday, State Senate President Pro Tem Phil Berger asked for the coal ash spill and the 3.5 million-gallon wastewater spill in Burlington to be discussed at next week's Environmental Review Commission meeting. Berger said he had concerns over the response to both spills.

(The Associated Press also contributed to this report)