Dan River Coal Ash Spill

On February 2, 2014, about 39,000 tons of coal ash and 25 million gallons of ash storage pond water were released into the Dan River from the Duke Energy facility in Eden, North Carolina.

Settlement for Spill

As a result of the spill into the Dan River, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality proposed a $2.5 million settlement against Duke Energy Carolinas. The settlement, an enforcement action called a consent order, is one of the largest ever proposed by DEQ. Duke has agreed to undertake $2.25 million in environmental projects that benefit Virginia localities affected by the spill. The remaining $250,000 was placed in the fund DEQ uses to respond to environmental emergencies. The proposal and summary of comments was presented to the State Water Control Board in June 2015.

Draft Natural Resource Damage Assessment Plan Available

A natural resource damage assessment and restoration process was initiated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, DEQ and the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (trustees) to address the potential damages to natural resources – including, surface water, sediment and aquatic organisms. They also quantified the loss of recreational opportunity to the public, such as fishing and park access.

 

Public meetings to review the draft restoration plan and environmental assessment will be held Aug. 6 and 7. Public comments will be accepted by the trustees during a 45-day period that closes on Sept. 9, 2019.

 

DEQ River Monitoring Results

DEQ and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency collected samples of water and sediment in February 2014. Four sites located from the Virginia/North Carolina state line to mid-way between Danville and South Boston were sampled. The results showed that no water quality standards for metals were exceeded and none of the levels of metals found in sediment or fish tissue were above the levels of concern. Longer-term environmental monitoring, aimed at detecting any trends in sediment or water column concentrations of trace metals associated with the ash, was done from 2015 to 2017 and included fish tissue and fish community sampling.

As the accumulated results indicate that impacts were minimal and trends were essentially in a positive direction (i.e., decreasing concentrations), the Dan River monitoring program has been scaled back to a few “sentinel” sites periodically sampled for sediment and water column metals levels. Virginia’s long-term efforts include a cooperative state and federal monitoring plan to identify impacts to bottom-dwelling organisms that form the base of the food chain in the river. Fish tissue collection continues at a slightly expanded scope, with the addition of five more stations located within the larger Roanoke and Yadkin River basins.

Looking Ahead

Virginia’s environmental evaluation of the Dan River following the coal ash spill in North Carolina continues to focus on potential long-term effects on water quality and aquatic life in the river under a five-year grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (using a portion of the penalty settlement funds paid by Duke Energy to the federal government). Sampling results of the treated drinking water for Virginia localities that use the Dan River have consistently met or exceeded all applicable federal and state standards and there are no public health concerns with drinking water.

Coal Ash Regulation

Virginia regulates coal combustion residues and impoundments under several different authorities. The following links may be helpful in understanding this topic: Coal Ash Management in Virginia and Coal Ash Solid Waste Permit Actions.

 

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Virginia Department of
Environmental Quality
P.O. Box 1105
Richmond, VA 23218
(804) 698-4000


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