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Second Coal Ash Leak at NC Site

Duke Energy’s problems grew worse on February 18, with reports surfacing that a second toxic leak has occurred at its Eden plant on the Dan River. A 36-inch stormwater pipe sprung a leak, pouring effluent laced with arsenic into the river. Nearby water samples indicated elevate levels of arsenic in the river. Duke said that it would temporarily cap the leak until it could figure out a long-term solution.

The North Carolina State Department of Environment and Natural Resources expressed concern about a potential leak last week. It has ordered Duke to halt the flow of contaminated water.

This follows a February 2nd spill that leaked coal ash into the river, also from the Eden site. That spill discharged 30,000 to 39,000 tons of coal ash and there is evidence that toxic coal ash is coating the bottom of the Dan River as far as 70 miles away. Duke struggled to contain the spill, which lasted nearly a week. Federal investigators opened an investigation, looking to see if there was any criminal activity stemming from the incident. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Raleigh subpoenaed emails between Duke and North Carolina regulators. North Carolina’s Governor is a former employee of Duke Energy, and critics have accused the government of being too lax with the industry.

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Government officials maintain that drinking water downstream from the Dan River remains safe because municipal water treatment plants are filtering out toxic chemicals. The effects on the wildlife and fish in the river are unknown. Duke apologized for the spill and said that it would take accountability, although a Duke official also said that any costs incurred from the accident will not be borne by the company but instead passed onto its ratepayers.

Separately, Duke reported its quarterly earnings on February 18, posting a 58% increase in profits in the fourth quarter.

By James Burgess of Oilprice.com



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