Duke Energy is under pressure after a massive coal ash spill - DatelineCarolina

Duke Energy under pressure after a massive coal ash spill

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Ponds collecting coal ash from the Lee Steam Station connected to the Saluda River. Ponds collecting coal ash from the Lee Steam Station connected to the Saluda River.
People in Anderson County are hoping no contamination will come to the Saluda River. People in Anderson County are hoping no contamination will come to the Saluda River.

One of Duke Energy's power plants in North Carolina had massive coal ash spill in the Dan River in early February. The spill contaminated 70 miles of the river used for drinking water in Danville, north of Greensboro.

Coal ash is a byproduct from burning coal that contains heavy metals. These can cause water contamination, be hazardous to fish, and harmful to people.

Duke Energy has 14 coal burning facilities in North Carolina and two in South Carolina. One of those plants, the Lee Steam Station, is in Anderson County near the Saluda River, the Lee Steam Station. The coal ash is collected in un-lined ponds that are connected by under ground pipes to the Saluda River.

The station has been plagued with coal ash seepage into the area's ground water for years.

The North Carolina spill has some people in Anderson County worried the Lee Steam Station could have the same problem.

Attorney Frank Holleman, with the Southern Environmental Law Center, says the ponds behind the Lee Steam Station are not safe.

"If that dam ever breaks," he says, "[Duke has] set up a system now that will just carry the coal ash into the Saluda River.

This has people in the area concerned about their drinking water.

Brooke Diaz lives close to the plant and relies on the Saluda River for her drink water.

"It's actually kind of alarming, especially here at our house because we drink. We don't drink soda, just water, milk and little bit of juice, so we depend a lot on that," she said.

She and Holleman would both like to see Duke Energy clean up the coal ash.

"I hope they take the advice and move forward," Diaz stresses.

"Remove [coal ash] from ponds and move it to safe, dry storage away from the river in lined land fills," Holleman encourages Duke.

Duke Energy representatives told the Public Service Commission time and resources have prevented them from cleaning up coal ash ponds.

"It is a task that will take some time, but we are working on it every minute of every day," said Duke Energy Representative George Everett

Duke Energy has agreed to clean up three of its 14 coal ash facilities in North Carolina. It has not announced any plans to clean up the ponds in Anderson County and Darlington County in South Carolina.

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