coal ash spill

Coal Ash Wednesday: Here come the sludge

And this will be fouling the Neuse River for a long time to come:

Matthew Starr had paddled only a half mile of a stretch of Neuse River near Duke Energy’s H.F. Lee power plant in Goldsboro when he saw initial signs that something had gone very wrong. “There was exposed coal ash on trees, floating in the river, on the road,” said Starr, the Upper Neuse Riverkeeper. “There was coal ash lying on the ground. We scooped it up out of the water.”

Flooding from Hurricane Florence had drowned two inactive coal ash basins in five feet of water. The active basins, according to state regulators, were structurally sound, but the Half Mile Branch Creek, according to images published by the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), was flowing through the inactive basin complex, which is covered in trees and other vegetation. Cenospheres, hollow balls of silica and aluminum that are coal ash byproducts, were floating on the water. But cenospheres are not entirely innocuous; they often contain arsenic and lead, just like the coal they came from.

This is one of the coal ash sites Duke Energy was ordered to relocate, but in late 2016 they sought for and received approval to recycle that ash instead. In other words, it shouldn't have been there to leak out. At least not in the volume it did. But of course that "volume" is hard to quantify, since we can't trust Duke Energy to be honest about its reporting:

Dam collapses at Duke Energy coal ash impoundment

Sometimes I really hate when my predictions come true:

Torrential rain from Hurricane Florence caused a slope to collapse at a coal ash landfill at Duke Energy’s Sutton plant in Wilmington. The utility reported about 2,000 cubic yards of material, including ash, was displaced. For context, the average commercial dump truck holds about 10-14 cubic yards, meaning the amount of displaced material at Sutton was equivalent to 142 dump truck loads.

It’s unclear if the rains carried any coal ash beyond the landfill and into the lake — and if so, how much. The landfill, which is lined, is designed to hold 5 million tons of coal ash in three cells. The utility notified state environmental regulators of the slope failure.

Hat-tip to Lisa Sorg and Riverkeeper Kemp Burdette for keeping us informed on this. Kemp was going to do an on-site (or as close as he could get) inspection yesterday, so hopefully we'll have an accurate photo to go with this story. Here's an update from Kemp:

Duke Energy Quarterly (DEQ) report: Only a teency amount of coal ash leaked

Nothin' to see here, folks. Move along:

Duke Energy says on-site inspections at the H.F. Lee plant confirm that only a minimal amount of coal ash came out of an inactive ash pond inundated by the post-Hurricane Matthew flooding near Goldsboro. A five-person crew from the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality spent more than five hours at the site Saturday. DEQ said in a prepared statement that the coal ash released from the flooded basin was “less than would fit in a pickup truck.”

I see their standards of measurement have deteriorated about as much as their quality standards. And in an effort to demonstrate they're not just in the bag for Duke Energy, DEQ brings out the white paint for industrial hog lagoons, too:

Coal Ash Wednesday: Restoring the Dan River

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Mitigation planners are seeking public input for projects:

A state-federal team is seeking public comment on its plan to assess natural resource damage from Duke Energy’s 2014 spill of coal ash into the Dan River.

Federal law lets state and federal agencies pursue claims against Duke to restore, replace or acquire natural resources equal to those that were damaged, and to seek cash compensation.

Trustees have already determined the types of projects that should be considered (see page 27 of the Plan large pdf), which includes conservation acquisitions, buffer zones, and recreational (boating & swimming) access. The public has until July 17 to submit input to: Sara Ward, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, P.O. Box 33726, Raleigh 27636-3726, or Sara_Ward@fws.gov.

Coal Ash Wednesday: Duke Energy's stubborn refusal to admit wrongdoing in Dan River spill

The term "negligence" never seems to come up in these discussions:

But Lesley Stahl of CBS, who anchored the hard-hitting segment, noted that Duke had been warned after repeated independent inspections in the past to keep a close watch on the stormwater pipe that ended up collapsing and rupturing under a pond, dumping an unimaginable 39,000 tons of the black filth into the Dan River.

Lynn Good, the current chief executive of Duke Energy, who was on the job only seven months at the time of the spill, put the best face she could on the situation. “It was an accident,” Good said. “It didn’t work the way it should have worked. It didn’t meet our standards or expectations.”

No, after several warnings spread over an equal number of years, it no longer meets the criteria of an "accident." It was an incident, and an avoidable one at that. And your continued efforts to shy away from taking complete responsibility seriously calls into question Duke Energy's ability to be a trustworthy partner in the effort to make the remaining coal ash impoundments safe and secure. If the General Assembly and the Coal Ash Commission don't understand that, the "negligence" will leak over to them, too.

Undue influence: Duke Energy pulled DENR's strings on lawsuit

This should go over well with Federal investigators:

The emails were provided Thursday to The Associated Press by the Southern Environmental Law Center, which had filed notice in January 2013 of its intent to sue Duke under the Clean Water Act.

Within days, the emails show a Duke lobbyist contacted the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources, where staff exchanged messages discussing "how Duke wants to be sued."

The agency used its authority to intervene in the lawsuit, quickly negotiating a proposed settlement where the $50 billion company would pay a $99,100 fine but be under no requirement to stop its pollution.

Honestly, I didn't think they could be this stupid. Apparently I overestimated their ability to contemplate more than five minutes into the future.

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