Friday, February 28, 2014

Environmental Impacts of Duke Energy's Coal Ash Spill

In addition to contaminating the Dan River, Duke energy coal ash spill has contaminated groundwater with unsafe levels of arsenic. The February 2 spill from the Eden power plant has coated the bottom of the Dan River with toxic ash as far as 70 miles downstream. The US Fish and Wildlife Service has indicated that a massive pile of coal ash about 75 feet long and as much as 5 feet deep has been detected in the river. The toxic sludge is flowing down the Dan river across the state lines into Virginia and to Kerr Lake, a major reservoir. The water coming out of that pipe contains poisonous arsenic which is 14 times the level considered safe for human contact. In addition to arsenic, unsafe levels of lead and selenium have also been detected. People are being advised to avoid contact with the river water and not eat the fish.

Federal authorities have expressed concerns about the long term impacts on fish, turtles, mussels and other aquatic life. The impacts on endangered species in the Dan river are of particular concern. Specifically the Roanoke logperch fish and the James spinymussel. The river also has another freshwater mussel, the green floater, which is currently being evaluated for protection under the U.S. Endangered Species Act.

More than two weeks after the spill Duke spokeswoman Paige Sheehan indicated that, "no immediate action was necessary," it said.

© 2014, Richard Matthews. All rights reserved.

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