coal ash contamination

Coal Ash Wednesday: Big Sky, big water contamination problem

Ranchers in Montana have been fighting coal ash leaks for years:

During the construction of the coal fired Colstrip power plants in the 70’s and 80’s, adjacent landowners to the ash settling pond sites raised concerns about contamination from coal ash into the shallow aquifers. We in agriculture rely on these aquifers (water quality and quantity) for stock water and domestic use for our homes. During the permitting process, the Board of Health required Montana Power Company to construct the ponds to be “completely sealed.” In fact, the term was underlined within the permit language. The permit also required ponds to be a “closed loop system.”

Montana Power Company then successfully petitioned the Board of Health to alter the parameters of the permit AFTER THE PERMIT WAS GRANTED.

Before we continue, it's important to note: As with many industrial operations, "best practices" technology and processes already exist with coal ash management, that greatly reduce the likelihood and severity of toxic leakage. But those best practices cost money, and avoiding having to implement them has become an art with many utilities across the US. Back to Clint's testimony:

Coal ash documentary featuring Dukeville residents showing in New York

"From The Ashes" will premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival later this month:

The documentary, “From the Ashes,” examines the history of coal in the United States, the long-term effects of the coal industry on communities and the future of coal. The Dukeville community and several familiar faces for observers of North Carolina’s coal ash controversy are featured in the documentary. They include Dukeville resident Deborah Graham, Southern Environmental Law Center attorney Frank Holleman and Catawba Riverkeeper Sam Perkins.

Part of the documentary was filmed in Dukeville, which has dealt with questions about well-water quality for roughly two years. State law requires that Duke Energy provide a source of safe, permanent water to neighbors of its coal ash ponds by 2018. “From the Ashes” is set to premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York City on April 26. Graham said she has been invited to attend the world premiere.

Once this documentary makes its rounds of film venues, it will be aired on the National Geographic Channel. Here's the trailer:

Duke Energy to add more carcinogens to already impaired waters

I guess they're not worried about the EPA anymore:

As part of its 2015 criminal plea agreement, Duke Energy admitted that bromide discharged into rivers and lakes from its coal ash operations have caused carcinogens to form in downstream drinking water systems. Some of these carcinogens are so dangerous that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has set their health protection goal at zero, meaning that people should not be exposed to any level of these pollutants.

Yet instead of taking responsible action to halt these bromide discharges, Duke Energy is proposing to add even more bromides to its coal ash basins, through changes to its coal plant operations. Duke Energy claims that the additional bromides will reduce emissions of mercury from its smokestacks. The utility is choosing this bromide production despite the fact that other modern, widely-used technologies—such as baghouses—are available to control mercury emissions without causing carcinogens downstream.

It's actually no comfort in realizing this is probably happening all over the United States, in the wake of the Trump admin's systematic destruction of the EPA. Hopefully our new DEQ will be able to bring some relief from the inevitable deterioration of our environment, but they've been cut to the bone also.

Coal Ash Wednesday: Selenium levels in Kentucky fish off the scales

Give a man a fish, poison him just a little:

Despite decades of pollution from the Brown plant, the Kentucky Division of Fish and Wildlife lists Herrington Lake as a great place to catch largemouth bass, crappie, white bass and bluegill. Like every other water body in the state, fish in Herrington Lake are already under an advisory for mercury because of air pollution from coal-fired power plants. But now, state regulators say the power plant’s coal ash pond has poisoned Herrington Lake’s fish in a different way: with selenium.

Nine out of 10 fish tissue samples taken last spring in Herrington Lake exceeded Kentucky’s fish tissue selenium criteria. LG&E and KU were cited for the violation last month and quickly reached an agreement with the state to pay $25,000 in civil penalties and take corrective measures.

Teach a man to fish, and you may be guilty of criminal negligence. Seriously, I just can't understand why fishermen and other outdoor sports enthusiasts aren't beating down the doors of their county/state/national governments to crack down on such pollution. I mean, just the fact you're not supposed to *eat* the fish is bad enough, but the systematic killing-off of fish populations makes the sport of fishing seem about as ridiculous as snipe-hunting:

Victory for Dukeville: Coal ash to be removed

Of course it took a lawsuit to make it happen:

On Tuesday the Yadkin Riverkeeper and Waterkeeper Alliance, represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center, reached a settlement with Duke Energy that requires the removal of all the coal ash from the unlined, leaking coal ash pits at Duke Energy’s Buck Steam Station facility on the Yadkin River in Salisbury, North Carolina. This is good news for the people who live near the plant.

Duke Energy, in a dig to the human beings who live near the Buck plant and have been vigorously advocating for clean water, issued a statement claiming that the decision was “Just business” and that coal ash is “safe”. They made no mention of the human cost of their profits.

Related note: Camel City Dispatch has been struggling financially for a few years, and is contemplating pulling back from investigative reporting on government (and environmental) issues, while focusing on social & cultural (dining, entertainment) stories. They will still publish input from readers on those other important subjects, but I fear that may not be adequate. I realize this campaign season has been (and will be) very demanding on your pocketbooks, but a donation to this publication would not be wasted.

Coal Ash Wednesday: Stith's refusal to testify begs the question

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What is he trying to hide?

Stith declined, on advice of attorney, to answer questions about coal ash pollution, the interaction between Duke Energy and state government, or about enforcement efforts against the utility. But he agreed to answer questions about his comments on Rudo.

High Arsenic levels reveal dangers of de-watering

Of course, Duke Energy spokesbot sez "No big deal":

Scott said the water tested was contaminated with arsenic at a level four times higher than the surface water safety standard. Nearby neighbors were disturbed by the findings. "We are very concerned, and this is another reason why Duke Energy needs to full clean up all that coal ash,” said Deborah Graham.

Duke Energy said the findings are very misleading. "Elevated arsenic levels are located immediately near the permitted release area. If you sample a short distance away in the river arsenic levels are well within the appropriate standard and would pose no risk to people on the river,” said Duke Energy Spokesperson Erin Culbert.

Did you sample that water a short distance away, or is that just speculation? The "if" leads me to believe you didn't, or you would have said something like, "Samples taken a short distance away..." While everybody reading this is probably aware Arsenic is some bad stuff, the health problems associated with long-term exposure are numerous:

Coal Ash Wednesday: US Senate on the verge of removing coal ash protections

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Undermining the EPA's long-awaited rules:

The U.S. Senate is preparing to vote as early as next week on a bill, The Water Resources Development Act of 2016, that may include a coal ash amendment that would significantly undercut the Environmental Protection Agency’s federal coal ash rule.

Prior to EPA’s rule, coal ash disposal was subject to a patchwork of state regulations that left communities vulnerable to hundreds of cases of damage or catastrophic spills. EPA’s rule establishes clear requirements for monitoring, cleanup, closure, and public notification that keep the public safe and informed, but these bright-line requirements of the rule are now in jeopardy, as this bill could allow polluters to have EPA’s clear standards swapped for site-specific standards that “differ” from EPA’s standards.

The fossil fuel industry learned a long time ago it was easier to manipulate state governments than the EPA, examples of which we've seen numerous times here in NC. And as usual, Republicans in Congress are using much-needed funding (Flint water crisis) as a hostage to serve their industry masters' desires. Here's more detail on this reckless amendment:

More questions than answers on Duke Energy's "alternate" water supply

Not all water filtration systems are alike:

After decades of neglect by previous administrations, North Carolina is finally on track to permanently solve the long-ignored coal ash problem. Recent media reports have overlooked updates to the coal ash law that speak directly to the concerns we’ve heard from residents near Duke Energy facilities. Most importantly, we have started the process of ensuring that permanent drinking water is provided to residents around coal ash facilities.

This week the state environmental department sent letters to eligible well owners around Duke Energy’s Asheville facility, notifying them that they will receive a permanent alternate source of drinking water. Under the new law, residents may be provided with a connection to public water supply or a full house filtration system.

Skipping past Tom Reeder's blatant partisan posturing, the details of the "or" a full house filtration system have eluded my research skills. I'm a little(?) out of my depth here, so please consider this more of a cry for help than a learned dissertation. In looking at the various systems which might meet the needs of these folks, none of them appear to be ideal:

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