Tuesday, February 11, 2014

The Virginia Department of Health: Coal Ash Release Fact Sheet : Direct contact with coal ash may cause skin irritation.

Revised February 6, 2014

   The Virginia Department of Health (VDH) is working with Duke Energy, federal, state and local government agencies to protect the health of residents in Pittsylvania, Halifax and Mecklenburg counties. The information below informs people about the recent coal ash spill in Eden, N.C., and provides up-to-date information on VDH’s role in responding to the event.

What happened?
The city of Danville was notified by Duke Energy at 6 pm on Sunday, February 2, 2014 of a release of coal ash into the Dan River approximately 15 to 20 miles upstream. The city of Danville water treatment plant operators noticed an increase in turbidity (measure of water cloudiness) in raw (untreated) water from the Dan River at around 11pm on Sunday, February 2, 2014. A press release from Duke Energy, the company that operates the coal plant, was released on February 4, 2014 https://www.duke-energy.com/power-plants/coal-fired/dan-river-response.asp. Additional information is available from the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources: http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/guest/dan-river-spill.

What is being done to address this event?
The city has been able to treat the water primarily through filtration. Raw and finished water samples are being collected and analyzed several times a day, and initial results indicate that the treated water is safe to drink. The majority of the color resulting from the coal ash has passed, but there is still enough present to tint the river gray.

What is coal ash?
Coal ash is made of minerals, just like those in soil and rocks. It is a gray, powdery material that is leftover after coal is burned. Coal fly ash is collected with air pollution control equipment at power plants and is often kept wet (in holding ponds) to prevent it from getting into the air.

Is exposure to coal ash likely to cause harm?
In general, coal ash may contain the following metals: aluminum, antimony, arsenic, barium, beryllium, cadmium, chromium, cobalt, copper, iron, lead, lithium, magnesium, manganese, mercury, molybdenum, nickel, selenium, silver, strontium, thallium, tin, titanium, vanadium, and zinc. Exposure to coal ash can occur through contact with the skin, accidental ingestion, and inhalation. Short-term exposure to coal ash is unlikely to have any adverse health effects. In addition, we do not expect any long-term exposure to harmful chemicals to occur from this spill. VDH is working with federal, state, and local agencies to evaluate available sampling data and keep residents informed.

Is my drinking water safe?
At this time, water results indicate that Danville’s drinking water meets drinking water standards. If you have a private well and live in Virginia, please consult with Southside Health District at (434) 799-5190. If you live in North Carolina and are concerned about your drinking water, please contact the Public Information Officer for N.C. Department of Water Resources at (919) 707-9014.

Is the Dan River safe to use for recreation?
VDH has not yet evaluated river water data for recreational safety. Until our evaluation is complete, VDH recommends exercising caution when using the Dan River for recreational purposes (boating, fishing, and kayaking).

Direct contact with coal ash may cause skin irritation.

Avoid contact with submerged or floating ash and if ash is contacted, wash off with soap and water.