It’s day 79 of my 365 Days of Living Deliberately. I lived deliberately today helping my daughter, her husband, and their one-and-a-half year old son move, never a fun job for anyone, but mom’s will do about anything they can do help their children, including, in my case, helping them move and fighting for their environmental futures.
Here’s more bad news about the Dan River plant published in the Charlotte Business Journal:
Third pipe at Dan River plant leaking coal ash toxins, EPA says
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has confirmed that toxins found in coal ash are leaking from a third pipe at Duke Energy’s Dan River Steam Station.
Levels of arsenic, lead, and other coal-ash toxins exceed EPA screening guidelines, says Kevin Eichinger, EPA’s on-site coordinator for the spill on the Dan River. He says EPA is waiting for the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources to determine whether this leak is a new violation of state water regulations and what action should be taken.
It is the second new leak of coal ash toxins discovered at the plant since a broken 48-inch stormwater pipe under the main ash pond at the plant spewed up to 39,000 tons of coal ash into the Dan River. The leak from this 12-inch pipe, which is carried to the river by a drainage ditch, is nothing near the scale of that spill, but it still may be illegal under state regulations for surface water.
Eichinger emphasizes that the results involve water from the pipe, which empties in to a drainage ditch that carries it to the river, not water in the river.
Duke says its own tests show arsenic at the source from the pipe. But it was not detectable in the river just 30 feet away.
“We’ve put filters and a silt fence up because we believe the discharge is from material turned up during all of the work on the site,” Duke says.
Eichinger says test results of samples taken by DENR at the 12-inch pipe show similar results to the EPA’s tests. But he says DENR has not made a ruling on the discharge yet because it has been double-checking the tests.
DENR, in fact, conducted a second round of tests on water from that pipe last week, apparently after initial tests — results of which it has declined to release — showed the presence of coal ash toxins in the water.
DENR could not be reached for immediate comment. DENR is reportedly preparing to announce something about this latest leak this afternoon.
Donna Lisenby of the Waterkeeper Alliance, the group that first disclosed the potential leak more than two weeks ago, says it is unconscionable that DENR has not ordered Duke to prevent this pipe from discharging toxins into the river.
“It is ridiculous that a private environmental organization can find this discharge and confirm it contains coal ash before federal and state officials can,” she says. “There is no excuse for DENR to allow Duke to continue to put toxins in the Dan River.”
Duke plugged the 48-inch pipe with cement on Feb. 8. On Feb. 14, DENR raised questions about a continuing discharge from a 36-inch pipe that also ran under the pond. And on Feb. 18, DENR said that discharge also contained coal ash tovins, in much smaller amounts, and ordered it sealed as well.
The 12 inch-pipe now in question does not run under the pond, but is adjacent to it.
The potential coal ash leak from that pipe was first brought to public attention by the Waterkeeper Alliance on Feb. 14. The group had discovered water from that pipe running down some orange-colored rocks near the east end of the ash pond on Feb. 6. The group sampled the water, and tests returned to it on Feb. 12 showed elevated levels of arsenic and other coal ash constituents.
The alliance told state and federal officials about the leak Feb. 13. Duke, DENR and the EPA all took water samples between Feb. 14 and Feb. 17. DENR took new samples on Feb. 24 and Feb. 27,
DENR, Duke and the EPA have all had initial results back from the tests for more than a week. But the public agencies and the company had declined to release the results until the test results had been verified.
“I was hoping to get this all figured out before this,” Eichinger says.
EPA verified its results Wednesday. Eichinger talked to DENR about its results that same day.
Lisenby says DENR should have immediately ordered Duke to stop the leak once it discovered there was coal ash in the water.