EDEN, N.C. -- Duke Energy is working to plug a broken pipe that has leaked tens of thousands of gallons of water polluted with coal ash into the Dan River near Eden, North Carolina.
The spill drew immediate parallels among environmentalists to similar coal ash lagoons at the former Riverbend Steam Station on Mountain Island Lake, the source of most drinking water for Gaston and Mecklenburg Counties.
Both Riverbend and the Dan River plants have been shut down but unlined coal ash lagoons remain on the banks of adjacent rivers.
A Duke spokeswoman says Duke has confirmed that no other coal ash lagoons in North Carolina are crossed with a stormwater pipe like the one which ruptured at Dan River triggering the spill.
The closest water intake site is about six miles downstream of the spill.
And while North Carolina Division of Water Quality representatives are on-site taking samples to test for contaminants, the water at nearby Danville, VA has not been shut down, according to the spokeswoman.
“You can tell the water has kind of a metallic gray look to it,” said Rhi Fionn-Bowman, an independent journalist who is on site making a documentary on coal ash issues and runs a website called The Coal Ash Chronicles.
The former Dan River coal-fired steam station is about 130 miles northeast of Charlotte near the Virginia border.
Duke Energy estimates that 50,000 to 80,000 tons of coal ash spilled into the Dan River beginning Sunday, but the spill was not made public until Monday afternoon.
That’s enough ash to fill 20 to 32 Olympic swimming pools, but about two-percent of the ash in the massive Kinston,Tennessee spill that knocked homes from their foundations and cost billions in an ongoing cleanup by the TVA.
The Southern Environmental Law Center is suing Duke Energy to try to force the Charlotte based utility to dry out the ponds, dig up the ash and truck it to lined, dry landfills.
SCENG began just such a cleanup at its Wateree Steam Station near Columbia, SC after being sued by environmentalists.