RALEIGH, N.C., Feb. 19 (UPI) -- A new leaking pipe at a coal ash storage facility in North Carolina has been discovered, and state regulators have ordered Duke Energy to control it immediately before more toxic waste leaks into the Dan River.
"Given what we've seen, we're concerned that this second storm water pipe on site may also be leaking water contaminated with coal ash pollutants into the Dan River," Tom Reeder, director of the N.C. Division of Water Resources, said in a statement late Tuesday. "As such, we are ordering Duke Energy to eliminate this unauthorized discharge immediately."
Earlier this month, another busted pipe at the Duke Energy storage basin spilled more than 39,000 tons of coal ash and 27 million gallons of contaminated coal ash into the river. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has been on site observing water quality and conditions since the spill happened. They say in certain places downstream they've found stretches of the river bottom coated in five inches of coal ash. Deposits of the toxic waste have been found 70 miles away in Virginia.
The utility company and the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) both told state lawmakers on Monday that the spilled coal ash did not threaten public health and safety. But heightened levels of aluminum, copper, arsenic and iron have been measured downstream. Several nearby towns in North Carolina and Virginia rely on the river as a significant source of drinking water.
Environmental groups have criticized the state agency for being too cozy with the energy company and downplaying the severity of the spill. Last year the agency required Duke to shell out $99,000 in fines for a series of smaller sewer spills, but the company was never required to do any cleanup work.
Earlier this week, federal prosecutors opened up a criminal investigation into the spill, issuing subpoenas to both Duke Energy and DENR for documents related to company's regulation prior to the spill.
[Los Angeles Times]