New research shows Dan River in good condition one year after Duke Energy coal ash spill

Feb. 5, 2015
According to new research conducted by leading universities, regulators and industry experts, the Dan River is now in stable condition one year after a major coal ash spill occurred at the Dan River Steam Station.

EDEN, NC, Feb. 5, 2015 -- According to new research conducted by leading universities, regulators and industry experts, the Dan River -- which flows 214 miles across the states of North Carolina and Virginia -- is now in good condition one year after a major coal ash spill occurred at the Dan River Steam Station (see "Duke Energy NC coal ash spill signifies third largest in U.S. history").

On Tuesday, Jan. 27, Duke Energy President Paul Newton joined local leaders from the city of Eden and Rockingham County at an update, titled "The State of Our Rivers," to share ongoing findings that indicate the river is thriving.

Findings to support a positive outlook for the river include:

  • Tests by the state of NC, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Duke Energy that demonstrated water quality in the Dan River returned to normal levels a few days after the ash release. Drinking water quality always remained safe.
  • An April 2014 study by North Carolina State University (click here) that detailed the river's suitability to be used for crops and livestock.
  • A July 2014 evaluation by the EPA (click here) that indicated cleanup work along the river was complete. Duke Energy worked at the direction of the Agency to remove coal ash from the river and continues monitoring activities in partnership with other agencies.
  • A November 2014 study by Alderman Environmental Services (click here), one of the nation's leading mussel experts, that concluded mussel life in the river is flourishing. Ten species were identified during the study as thriving in the Dan River, and two extremely rare species were observed that had not been seen before in the Roanoke River basin.
  • A November 2014 study by the NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) (click here) that found macroinvertebrates, a key indicator of the river's health, were healthy up and down the Dan River. DENR sampled locations upstream and downstream of the plant and found populations to be in excellent condition.

Since the spill, Duke Energy has conducted a major operation, under the direction of the EPA, to excavate and monitor coal ash in the river. The company has also performed thousands of tests from the plant to Kerr Lake in partnership with state and federal agencies to study ongoing conditions in the river (see "Duke Energy completes cleanup work of spilled coal ash along Dan River").

During his presentation, Newton shared numerous findings that demonstrate the current status of the river, including thousands of water and sediment samples, detailed studies of aquatic life and evaluation by state and federal regulators.

Duke Energy continues to work with state and federal regulators. Ongoing monitoring programs in the Dan River and Roanoke River basins include fish community assessments, fish tissue analysis and other important samples. All scientific indicators point to the fact that the river is thriving.

In addition to monitoring activities, Duke Energy continues to work closely with communities along the Dan River. As part of this support, the company recently created a $10-million Water Resources Fund (WRF) to support projects benefiting waterways in the Carolinas and those downstream from the company's Carolina's operations (see "Duke Energy forms WRF for waterways in Carolinas, neighboring states").

Among seed grants already announced are $250,000 to the Rockingham County Community Foundation and the Community Foundation of the Dan River Basin. Those grants, as well as more than 70 grant applications under consideration, will be used to support local projects and investments, some of which are expected to be announced in coming weeks.

See also:

"EPA announces first national regulations to safeguard coal ash disposal"

"New online database reveals groundwater contamination from coal power plant waste"