Coal Ash Wednesday: Florence likely to bring environmental nightmare


And coal ash pits are perfectly situated to be flooded out:

Since power plants need vast amounts of water to generate steam, their unlined waste pits are located along lakes and rivers. Some of the pits were inundated during past storms, including during Floyd and Hurricane Matthew in 2016.

After a 2014 spill at a Duke plant coated 70 miles of the Dan River in toxic gray sludge, state regulators forced the Charlotte-based company to begin phasing out its coal ash pits by 2029. Because that work was already underway, wastewater levels inside the ash ponds have been falling, Duke Energy spokesman Bill Norton said Tuesday. "We're more prepared than ever," said Norton, adding that crews will be monitoring water levels at the pits throughout the storm.

Yeah, you can "monitor" those pits all you want, but if they are overrun by flood waters, and those dirt berms collapse, there is literally nothing you can do to stop the contamination. As I've mentioned in the past, using water for steam and cooling is not the only reason those pits are right on the banks of rivers. It's also a handy way of draining that toxic water right into a fast-moving body, where evidence of the discharge disappears after a short period of time. In addition to coal ash, pig poop and nukes are also a concern:

North Carolina has roughly 2,100 industrial-scale pork farms containing more than 9 million hogs — typically housed in long metal sheds with grated floors designed to allow the animals' urine and feces to fall through and flow into nearby open-air pits containing millions of gallons of untreated sewage.

During Floyd, dozens of these lagoons either breached or were overtopped by floodwaters, spilling the contents. State taxpayers ended up buying out and closing 43 farms located in floodplains.

Bolding mine, because for some strange reason, I don't remember any media coverage over how much those buyouts actually cost taxpayers. While I'm trying to track that number down, remember Fukishima:

The company is also preparing for potential shutdown of nuclear reactors at least two hours before the arrival of hurricane-force winds. Duke operates 11 reactors at six sites in the Carolinas, including the Brunswick Nuclear Plant located south of Wilmington near the mouth of the Cape Fear River.

The Brunswick plant's two reactors are of the same design as those in Fukushima, Japan, that exploded and leaked radiation following a 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Following that disaster, federal regulators required all U.S. nuclear plants to perform upgrades to better withstand earthquakes and flooding.

Duke Energy did not respond to requests for information about specific changes made at Brunswick, other than to say emergency generators and pumps will remove stormwater at the plant if it floods. The company issued assurances this week that it is ready for Florence, which is predicted to pack winds of up to 140 miles per hour and a 13-foot storm surge.

Okay, found those hog farm buyout stats:

Nearly $5 million has been secured from state and federal sources for a fifth round of voluntary buyouts of swine farms located in the 100-year floodplain, North Carolina Pork Council CEO Andy Curliss announced Tuesday. The funding will be used to close lagoons and acquire voluntary conservation easements that allow the farmer to retain farm ownership.

Phase 1 — 1999: $5.7 million; 17 farms
Phase 2 — 2002: $6.1 million; 18 farms
Phase 3 — 2004: $3.8 million; five farms
Phase 4 — 2007: $3 million; three farms
Phase 5 — 2018: $5 million

As you can see, each phase costs the taxpayers more per farm. Yes, I understand inflation and all that, and if we were actually "buying" these farms, we could expect to pay more as times goes on. But we're really just paying them to *not* raise hogs.