Type: Process Essays
Sample donated: Julio Webb
Last updated: October 2, 2019
Duke Energy had a massive spill at one of their most productive sites in Eden, North Carolina in early 2014.
The spill contaminated drinking water and exposed humans, wildlife, and natural resources to potentially harmful chemicals and toxins. It had many effects on the environment and will probably cause more in the future. The spill was caused by a break in a 48 inch stormwater pipe. The break was noticed on February 2nd, 2014 by a security guard that was working at the plant. Low levels of water output in an ash pond were what gave away the break. This break in total allowed between 50,000 and 82,000 tons of coal ash to drain into the Dan River.
Meaning that 24-27 million gallons of water was contaminated. This is the 3rd largest coal ash spill in U.S.
History. The Dan River supplies drinking water to many counties in North Carolina and Virginia. Coal ash has toxins such as arsenic, aluminum, lead, and mercury in it which are very dangerous to be around. Even living near coal ash ponds and being exposed to such harsh substances has been linked to an increase in several types of cancers, tissue diseases, and kidney diseases. Drinking water in the 1,589 square mile river was contaminated. Nearly 58,000 people were exposed to the coal ash before it was even recognized.
The health effects of this over time could prove to be substantial. As well as supplying drinking water to the Dan River is home to several types of endangered species such as the James spinymussel and the Roanoke logperch. These animals could have been harmed from the coal ash that was spilled into the river. The pollution in the water can cause diseases in the fish and other animals that live in or near the river.
The toxic substances can build up in animal’s bodies and work their way up the food chain and eventually reach humans through more than just drinking the contaminated water, but by consuming any animals that were exposed to the pollution as well. Many plants were also exposed to the harsh toxins in coal ash. These plants and other types of vegetation may have been harmed by the coal ash and can affect their areas surrounding the river.
Duke Energy is now working cooperatively with the NRDAR (Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration) to clean up all of the ash that was spilled. They are also working to reverse the effects of the spill by replacing and restoring any lost vegetation. As of February of 2016, the cleanup and restoration processes were going according to schedule.
As a result of the spill, many of the coal ash ponds in North Carolina have been permanently closed due to the amount of damage caused. Also, government figures have started to call for stricter drinking water regulations. This should ensure that if another instance such as this one were to happen, it wouldn’t be as drastic as this one. After the spill, Duke Energy has been told to convert some of the ways that they handle coal ash in the future to prevent another spill. One way they plan on doing this is by closing some of the ash basins that have been used in the past. Another is by regulating the use of coal and the output of coal ash more closely in the future.
The coal ash spill caused by Duke Energy should have never happened. The amount of coal ash that was released was immense and it contaminated the Dan River which is an important habitat for endangered species and resource for drinking water supplied to North Carolina and Virginia. Duke Energy has recognized the issue and is working diligently to clean up all of the ash and to restore loss of vegetation in the areas around the river. New regulations on coal ash and drinking water are being put into place and new protocols are being introduced at the energy plants.
The cleanup is an ongoing process that will continue to take more time but should be resolved within the next 30 years.