Florence flooding causes coal ash, hog waste spills

Danielle Haynes
North Carolina tries to return to normal followig Hurricane Florence
Ignacio (L) and Sylvia Bautista hold hands after checking out their property following Hurricane Florence, now tropical depression on Wednesday in Beulaville, N.C. Florence, is continuing to dump rain on North and South Carolina and the Cape Fear River Valley and other rivers will rise breaking record flood levels. Photo by Ken Cedeno/UPI

Sept. 17 (UPI) -- While the full measure of Hurricane Florence's environmental impact on the Carolinas has yet to be fully determined, there were early reports Monday of floodwaters inundating or breaching coal ash landfills and hog waste lagoons.

Duke Energy Corp., the largest electric provider in North Carolina, said Monday there was a spill of coal ash at one landfill site near Wilmington and flooding at another near Goldsboro.


Coal ash is the fine byproduct left over after coal is burned to generate electricity. The substance is typically stored in landfills or basins to prevent it from contaminating the air and environment, but the top of the 20-foot-tall site at the L. V. Sutton Power Plant washed into Lake Sutton, which connects to Cape Fear River, on Saturday.

"The majority of displaced ash was collected in a perimeter ditch and haul road that surrounds the landfill and is on plant property," the company said in a statement.

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The company said about 2,000 cubic yards of coal ash, which contains arsenic, selenium, lead, mercury and other toxic heavy metals, was washed away.

"Coal ash is non-hazardous, and the company does not believe this incident poses a risk to public health or the environment. The company is conducting environmental sampling as well," the company said.


Meanwhile, water flooded another coal ash pond at Duke Energy's H.F. Lee Plant.

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Before Florence made landfall as a Category 1 hurricane Friday, environmental officials were concerned about its affects on the Carolinas' industries, particularly hundreds of pig farms that were in the path. North Carolina is home to 9.7 million pigs, the second largest pork producer in the country, The New York Times reported.

Those pigs produce some 10 billion gallons of manure each year, all of which is stored in thousands of open lagoons dotting the state.

The North Carolina Pork Council said Monday that floodwaters breached one lagoon in Dublin County, meaning the walls gave way and could no longer hold back the manure. Four others were inundated, wherein the walls remain intact but floodwaters pour in over the top.

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"While there are more than 3,000 active lagoons in the state that have been unaffected by the storm, we remain concerned about the potential impact of these record-shattering floods. We are continuing to assess the impact and expect to provide further updates later today," a statement from the council said.

Hurricane Harvey, which made landfall in the Houston area in 2017, caused flooding at the San Jacinto River Waste Pits Superfund site, causing erosion of the river bottom near the cap of the pits, which are contaminated with carcinogenic waste including dioxins. The EPA removed the site from its priority cleanup list in April after the two companies responsible for the waste -- International Paper and McGinnes Industrial Maintenance Corporation -- agreed to conduct remedial design for the site.


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