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Coal ash is the waste that remains when coal is burned. It is usually collected in a dump, known as a pond. North Carolina has more than 30 such sites in 14 different locations across the state. A pipe running under one of the ponds run by Duke Energy in Eden NC ruptured in February of 2014. The coal ash spilled, largely affecting the Dan River which flows into Virginia. The spill is the third largest of its kind in U.S. history.Many see potential complications because North Carolina's governor, Pat McCrory, worked for Duke Energy for 28 years.

Cleaning Coal Ash In Danville, VA

The Dan River bank with residual dark grey coal ash.
Steven Alexander

Leaders of the Moral Monday movement focused on coal ash during a town hall meeting in Eden. The 'Moral Monday' event consisted of two panels of people to discuss the health, environmental and economic impacts of the coal ash spill that originated in Eden, near the Virginia border almost two months ago. As much as 39,000 tons of potentially toxic ash poured into the Dan River when a metal pipe running through a Duke Energy coal ash dump, ruptured. The ash has been found as far as 70 miles downstream. Some of the ash at the spill site in Eden has been removed by the utility.

Meanwhile, Crews with Duke Energy are expected to begin the process of cleaning up coal ash in Danville, Virginia this week. Duke estimates 2,500 tons of coal material is concentrated at the Schoolfield Dam.  Coal ash will be vacuum-dredged from the river bottom and also removed from concrete basins at the water treatment plant.  Treated water has been declared safe for human consumption since the spill.

Duke and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) have come under widespread criticism following the accident.The nation’s largest electricity provider faces a federal criminal investigation as well as lawsuits from Environmentalists and a state agency, over alleged violation of water regulations.

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