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Coal Dan River coal ash spill

Published on February 17th, 2014 | by Tina Casey

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North Carolina Locks Barn Door After Coal Ash Escapes



We’ve been following the coal ash disposal issue ever since the massive Emory River coal ash spill of 2010 (remember that?) in Tennessee, which triggered a flurry of regulatory proposals that have pretty much gone nowhere. That all might be about to change, at least for the current epicenter of coal ash disasters, North Carolina. In the aftermath of this month’s Dan River coal ash spill in North Carolina, two Republican members of that state’s legislature have announced that they will co-sponsor a bill to eliminate coal ash dumps.

Dan River coal ash spill

Door (locked) by rightee.

Fallout From Dan River Coal Ash Spill Crosses The Aisle

If it’s somewhat surprising to you that two Republican lawmakers would go out on a limb to challenge longstanding coal industry practice (that is, storing the byproduct of coal fired power plants in open coal ash lagoons), join the club.

However, it’s worth noting that the Dan River coal ash disaster really hit home for these particular two lawmakers.

According to a report at DailyJournal.net, the two announced co-sponsors, State Senate Rules Chairman Tom Apodaca and House Environment Committee Vice-Chairman Chuck McGrady, themselves live near a pair of coal ash dumps in a different area of North Carolina near Asheville, at French Broad (who knew?) River.


Tests have shown that those two dumps are contaminating local groundwater (not an uncommon problem with coal ash dumps), so it kind of makes you wonder if the two would have sprung into action if they happened to live in some other area where their property values were not at risk, but let’s not look a gift horse in the mouth.

Let’s also note for the record that just over this past weekend, a 5,000-gallon fuel oil spill was also reported in a creek leading to the same unlucky river.

Dan River Coal Ash Spill Update

To catch you up on other news about the Dan River coal ash spill, as you may know it started with the failure of a stormwater drain under the coal ash storage lagoon leading to the river, and now officials are concerned about the structural integrity of a second drain.

Meanwhile, concerned about the lack of activity on the state level, federal authorities have stepped in to convene a grand jury investigating a “suspected felony” in relation to the spill from the first drain, which had been reported on February 2.

As for any prospect of regulation at the federal level, after the 2010 Emory River coal ash spill the US EPA proposed new rules for coal ash disposal, which coincidentally — after a years-long wait — are nearing the stage of finalization, so stay tuned.

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About the Author

Tina Casey specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. You can also follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.



  • Larry

    Coal ash contains toxic heavy metals (if the generating station collects the fly ash) and when it hits a waterways instantly boosts the pH to somewhere between 12 and 14. Essentially sterilizes the receiving water. Nasty stuff

  • Nc

    Trashy Tina always downing republicans…if you knew anything about nc you’d know it had been run for years by dems who did nothing regarding this sort of issue in the past- yet of course you’re too biased or ignorant to look into facts.

  • https://plus.google.com/u/0/116871216264349123945/posts Felix Hoenikker

    Ok so why didn’t anyone loose their cool when the Koch brothers were blowing coal ash all over downtown detroit? They left it in open piles next to the river. So ya thats more incideous than this which is likely a mistake however stupid and reckless it might be. Koch brothers knew exactly what they were doing by putting the ash piles in the middle of a city where people live and work because they knew that the politics there in Detroit are as morally corrupt as them.

    • Michael Berndtson

      The Koch subsidiary was piling petroleum coke in Detroit. Not fly ash from coal fired power plants.

      • brink

        pollution is pollution

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