The Latest News On The Coal Ash Spill in Eden, NC

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.

A massive pile of debris sits outside of town on Ocracoke Island as cleanup efforts continue a month after Hurricane Dorian. All of the waste must be collected and then loaded into trucks before being transported off the island by boat.
Madeline Gray / For WUNC

As the year comes to a close, we take a look at some of the photos that helped tell the story of 2019. From hurricanes to controversy over confederate monuments and a deadly gas explosion, here are the moments – big and small – that shaped the year in North Carolina news.

Workers with a large tractor dig coal ash out from pit.
NC DEQ / Flickr

Duke Energy is expected to execute the country’s largest coal ash cleanup in the next couple decades. A settlement signed Dec. 31, 2019 between Duke Energy and the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality decided the utility will excavate nearly 80 million tons of coal ash from unlined ponds and move it to lined landfills.

WUNCPolitics Podcast
WUNC

A judge put North Carolina's requirement that voters show photo ID on hold for now. 

Duke Energy agreed to excavate millions of tons residue from burning coal - which will cost billions. 

And it's officially 2020!

Rob Schofield of the progressive NC Policy Watch and Becki Gray of the conservative John Locke Foundation catch up with the first big political stories of the new year.
 


Marshall Steam Station
Duke Energy

The state of North Carolina says it has secured an agreement with Duke Energy to excavate nearly 80 million tons of coal ash at six facilities.

Someone holding up a water sample in front of a computer screen.
Courtesy of Detlef Knappe

Clean drinking water is a human right according to a 2010 United Nations declaration. But recent incidents throughout North Carolina raise questions about whether or not our state is protecting that right for North Carolina residents.

Portrait photo of Wind and her daughter.
Denise Bardsley Photography

Susan Wind’s daughter was diagnosed with papillary thyroid cancer at 16 years old. Soon after the family shared the news, Wind started hearing from her neighbors and other community members about their own families’ cancer battles.

Youth Strike Against Climate Change

Sep 17, 2019
Mary Ellis Stevens

Ninth-grader Greta Thunberg sat outside the Swedish legislature in 2018 and declared her commitment to strike each Friday to demand that her government undertake a radical response to climate change. At that moment she became the face and voice of a generation of youth anxious and motivated to do something about climate change.

Tom Augspurger (l), USFWS, taking core sample during February 8th reconnaissance of Dan River coal ash spill.
Steve Alexander / USFWS

The federal, North Carolina and Virginia governments asked a court Thursday to declare the country's largest electricity company liable for environmental damage from a leak five years ago that left miles of a river shared by the two states coated in hazardous coal ash.

Town of Chapel Hill

A leaky roof, lack of space and aging infrastructure are just some of the problems plaguing the roughly 40-year-old building that houses the Chapel Hill Police Department.

Duke Energy
Duke Energy

A Duke University researcher says that Sutton Lake, near Wilmington, has been the site of numerous coal ash spills, both before and after Hurricane Florence.

A Duke Energy power plant and coal ash ponds outside Asheville.
Zen Sutherland / Flickr / www.flickr.com/photos/zen/1796555301/

North Carolina's environmental agency exceeded its authority by ordering Duke Energy Corp. to dig up all of its coal ash and move it from unlined storage sites where toxic chemicals have seeped into water supplies, the country's largest electric company said Friday.

A thin film of coal ash coats trees and vegetation in an inactive ash basin at the HF Lee plant. As expected, the area was flooded by Hurricane Florence.
c/o Duke Energy

The country's largest electric company says it's challenging an order by North Carolina's environmental agency to excavate coal ash from all of its power plant sites in the state.

Coal fired power plant
eutrophication&hypoxia via Flickr, Creative Commons

The state Department of Environmental Quality ordered Duke Energy to excavate six coal ash ponds last week. Duke wanted to leave the ash in place and cover it, which is a much cheaper solution. The energy company estimates it will cost an additional $4 to $5 billion to clean up these six sites.

A Duke Energy power plant and coal ash ponds outside Asheville.
Zen Sutherland / Flickr / www.flickr.com/photos/zen/1796555301/

Updated at 4:50 p.m.

Duke Energy Corp. has been ordered to excavate coal ash from all of its North Carolina power plant sites, slashing the risk of toxic chemicals leaking into water supplies but potentially adding billions of dollars to the costs consumers pay.

A picture of a coal ash pond.
Waterkeeper Alliance

How does coal ash impact human health? A new review of existing research shows a link between living close to a coal power plant or coal ash pond and higher risks of respiratory and cardiovascular diseases, as well as higher risks of premature mortality, lung cancer, infant mortality, and poor child health. The research does not draw a direct link between these conditions and coal ash. 

A map of Duke Energy's 14 coal ash sites and their operational status in 14 energy plants across the state.
Duke Energy

The North Carolina Utilities Commission will begin hearings on a rate hike request for one subsidiary of Duke Energy after recently approving a 6 percent increase for another.

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

Duke Energy argued this week in hearings before the North Carolina Utilities Commission that the cost of cleaning up coal ash spills should be passed on to consumers. 

Duke Energy's coal burning plant and the adjacent coal ash ponds by the Dan River.
Riverkeeper Foundation

Hearings continue this week in Duke Energy's request for a rate hike, and among the costs that the utility is trying to recover is nearly $2 million for bottled water it provides to homeowners near coal ash pits. 

Duke Energy's coal burning plant and the adjacent coal ash ponds by the Dan River.
Riverkeeper Foundation

Updated 3:55 p.m. | Nov. 27, 2017

The country's largest electric company says charging North Carolina consumers the full, multi-billion-dollar cost of cleaning up coal ash dumps is comparable to tire stores charging customers an extra fee to dispose of an old set of radials.

What if a dam holding back coal ash burst at one of Duke Energy's coal plants in the Carolinas or Midwest? Newly released maps from Duke show many properties would be inundated, including some homes and docks. The maps are now public, after environmentalists threatened to sue. 

Duke Energy's coal burning plant and the adjacent coal ash ponds by the Dan River.
Riverkeeper Foundation

Updated 10:28 a.m., Sept. 25

The country's largest electric company says it will publish federally mandated maps that it previously refused to publish, showing what could happen to neighboring properties if a coal-ash pit burst.

coal ash
Dave DeWitt / WUNC

The Environmental Protection Agency has announced it will reconsider safeguards the Obama Administration put in place to regulate coal ash disposal.

Sample products made using plastic and coal ash from ponds and landfills. Researchers at North Carolina A&T University have developed the composite building material and hope to eventually have it replace wood in some construction.
Courtesy of Kunigal Shivakumar

Researchers at North Carolina A&T University have developed a composite building material using plastic and coal ash from ponds and landfills.

Duke Energy's coal burning plant and the adjacent coal ash ponds by the Dan River.
Riverkeeper Foundation

Duke Energy Corp. is giving notice it plans to seek electricity rate increases for another 2 million North Carolina customers.

Duke Energy's coal burning plant and the adjacent coal ash ponds by the Dan River.
Riverkeeper Foundation

The nation's largest electric company wants regulators in North Carolina to force consumers to pay nearly $200 million a year to clean up the toxic byproducts of burning coal to generate power. That doesn't sit well with neighbors of the power plants who have been living on bottled water since toxic chemicals appeared in some of their wells.

A study shows potentially dangerous levels of Chromium-6 in wells across the state.
Kelly Stemcosky / Flickr Creative Commons

Researchers at Duke University have found widespread contamination of North Carolina well-water with hexavalent chromium. Researchers initially believed the cancer-causing toxin was coming from coal ash ponds. But Duke professor Avner Vengosh said his new study shows the dangerous compound is naturally occurring across the state.

The state epidemiologist in the division of public health resigned yesterday in protest over the McCrory administration’s handling of a controversy stemming from Duke Energy's handling of well water surrounding coal ash sites.

Image of bottled water provided by Duke Energy to families affected by the coal ash spill.
Dave DeWitt / WUNC

State toxicologist Ken Rudo testified that Governor Pat McCrory participated via phone in a meeting to draft letters to well owners downplaying the risk of coal ash contamination in their drinking water.

North Carolina legislative building
Dave DeWitt / WUNC

Lawmakers adjourned for the year early Saturday morning following a short session at the General Assembly marked with limited acrimony, plenty of debate over House Bill 2 and the departure of several long-serving members.

Photo: North Carolina's Old State Capitol building.
Soggy6 / Flickr

Lawmakers convened in Raleigh nearly a month ago for a short session to address the state's budget. But legislators have proposed measures on other items including bills on coal ash, light rail and sanctuary cities.

Also this week, Senator Fletcher Hartsell, a Republican from Concord, was indicted on charges of illegal campaign expenditures. The long-serving member in the Senate says he will not resign.

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