coal ash contamination

Duke Energy self-reports "no contamination found" in Lumberton

In a related story, Fluffy the dog says, "I don't know who tore up that couch pillow, but I'll keep an eye out."

Tests near the coal ash site at the closed Weatherspoon Power Plant in Lumberton show no hazardous levels of toxic material, Duke Energy officials said Thursday. Duke just competed groundwater testing near the Lumberton plant, according to Duke spokeswoman Zenica Chatman. The tests showed no impact on nearby wells or the Lumber River, she said.

"We're very encouraged by what we're seeing," she said.

She says, while looking at the stock readout showing Duke Energy's stock stabilizing at around $72 per share. As is often the case when PR makes it into the regular news columns, there's more to be learned in the commentary:

Coal Ash Wednesday: Cliffside back in the news

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Public hearings scheduled for stormwater discharge permits:

As part of the public feedback process, the department will hold two public hearings in September to gather input on the draft permits. The public hearing for the Dan River Combined Cycle Station stormwater permit is scheduled for 6 p.m. Sept. 8 at the Eden Town Hall, 308 East Stadium Drive, Eden. The public hearing for the Rogers Energy Complex stormwater permit is scheduled for 6 p.m. Sept. 10 at the Boiling Springs City Hall, 114 East College Ave., Boiling Springs. Speaker registration for both hearings begins at 5 p.m.

Just like death and taxes, stormwater happens whether you want it to or not. That being said, routing stormwater in and around industrial sites is complex and a *likely* source of toxic contamination of streams and rivers. From the "fact sheet" on Rogers/Cliffside:

Coal Ash Wednesday: DENR to permit massive discharges from Sutton Plant

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It's not a "leak" if they let you spill it:

A public hearing on a discharge permit related to Duke Energy’s planned coal-ash cleanup has been moved to Aug. 6, a day later than originally scheduled.

Duke Energy is excavating and reburying 7.2 million tons of coal ash on the plant site to comply with a state law requiring the utility to close and clean up its coal-ash ponds throughout North Carolina. The Sutton plant was among the first on the list for cleanup because it has been actively leaking toxic substances into the groundwater and the Cape Fear River.

I'm not naïve, I realize the impoundments need to be "de-watered" before they can be dug up and hauled away. But just because the river is right there handy doesn't mean polluting it is the only way to go. They wouldn't be allowed to do that if it were a Superfund site, and considering the toxins involved, the only difference is in the name. Here's part of the NPDES Permit:

How about a little Arsenic with your softball?

So much for the beneficial uses of coal ash:

A softball field at South Brunswick Middle School remains closed after coal ash was found beneath the surface more than a year ago.

The coal ash was identified last year, several months into a project to renovate the existing field. According to district operations staff, a county engineer overseeing the original construction of the field in 1992 used coal ash–a free, readily available material from nearby the nearby Cogentrix plant–to fill the field.

In this context, the definition of "free" is: If you will take this toxic mess off our hands so we don't have to deal with it ourselves, we would greatly appreciate it. And as long as we refuse to categorize coal ash as a hazardous waste, stupid things like this are going to continue to happen.

Coal Ash Wednesday: Swimming in industry propaganda

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Duke Energy hires a professional liar to represent their interests:

Rudo and Duke’s expert, Lisa Bradley, a nationally known expert in coal ash toxicology, also clashed over the chemical element vanadium. They split over whether the state had issued “do not drink” recommendations to dozens of well owners based on vanadium findings less than those people routinely encounter safely in everyday life.

“So you’re getting more in your daily vitamin than you would drinking water at that screening level,” Bradley said of the state’s trigger level for issuing “do not drink” warnings for vanadium found in wells.

Coal Ash Wednesday: Sutton plant leaking like a sieve

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And Duke Energy is more concerned with legal battles than safe drinking water:

Tests have found elevated levels of boron, a metal that is a recognized indicator of coal ash contamination, in monitoring wells near the plant and in three water supply wells about a half-mile away, according to Department of Environment and Natural Resources officials. "The levels of boron in these wells are a clear indication that coal ash constituents from Duke Energy’s coal ash impoundments have infiltrated the groundwater supply," Tom Reeder, an assistant secretary for DENR, said in a statement. "We are ordering Duke Energy to immediately take corrective actions to prevent further migration of coal ash contaminants."

Coal Ash Wednesday: With a side order of nuclear waste

There's a bigger mess in South Carolina than previously reported:

About 4 million tons of ash are in the 55-acre coal waste pond in Darlington County, according to data recently published on Duke Energy’s website. Last year, the power company reported only 660,000 tons in the ash basin near Lake Robinson, a popular recreation spot outside of Hartsville and about an hour’s drive east of Columbia.

Statistics showing more ash in the pond follow revelations in March that nuclear waste had been dumped in the ash pond and that poisonous arsenic has been found at levels substantially higher in groundwater than previously known by the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control.

Although Duke Energy is now responsible, the dirty deeds were done (dirt cheap) by Progress Energy. And they were so dirty the groundwater running under the coal ash/nuclear waste cocktail has Arsenic at levels 1,000 times greater than the safe limit. But staying in character, Duke Energy is not overly worried about it:

Coal Ash Wednesday: Muddying the causality water

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The "naturally-occurring" theory gets a boost:

Western North Carolina is in the middle of what geologists call the Blue Ridge ultramafic rock belt, which extends from the Appalachian Mountains in Virginia down into Georgia. Within this belt are high concentrations of serpentine and amphibolite rocks, which contain manganese and iron, the elements needed to oxidize chromium-3 — which is non-toxic — into hexavalent chromium, a carcinogen. While hexavalent chromium is most often produced by anthropogenic pollution, especially through the combustion of coal, oil, and natural gas, it is closely associated with rocks found in the Blue Ridge, according to the US Geological Survey.

Coal Ash Wednesday: 93% of tested wells contaminated

And Duke Energy still refuses to take responsibility:

The state Department of Environment and Natural Resources said Tuesday that 152 wells tested near Duke's dumps failed to meet state groundwater standards. That represents more than 93 percent of the 163 wells for which tests have been completed so far.

So far, Duke is providing bottled water to "about half a dozen" of the residents, but the company indicated that number is expected to rise. The company maintains the groundwater contamination is all naturally occurring.

What is that? 4% of the people with contaminated wells are getting some bottles of water? That number had better rise, and with the quickness, or Duke Energy's public relations nightmare will get a lot worse.

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