Monday, March 31, 2014

Meeting: The Dan River Coal Ash Spill: Eden / Abreu-Grogan Park to close for coal ash removal from river / River cleaning equipment arrives in Danville / DENR says it would support clarifying coal-ash groundwater pollution law / Uranium mining is just too dangerous

River cleaning equipment arrives in Danville

GoDanRiver Staff | Posted: Monday, March 31, 2014 12:49 pm 
Equipment is beginning to arrive in Danville for cleaning coal ash out of the Dan River and from concrete basins at the water treatment plant.

During a news conference Monday, Duke Energy spokesperson Jeff Brooks said equipment would begin to be set up at Abreu-Grogan Park on Tuesday that will vacuum-dredge about 2,500 tons of coal ash deposited on the northern bank of the Dan River near the park.

Coal ash will also be cleaned out of the concrete basins at the water treatment plant, where it has been accumulating since the Feb. 2 spill at Duke Energy’s Dan River Steam Station in Eden, N.C.

That equipment — which includes a belt filter press to dewater the ash and tankers to move the material from the basins to the press — is was being set up Monday morning.

Plans are to move the coal ash to a lined landfill, Brooks said

Posted on: March 31, 2014

Abreu-Grogan Park to close for coal ash removal from river

The City of Danville will close Abreu-Grogan Park on Memorial Drive beginning Tuesday to allow Duke Energy crews and contractors to begin removal of a large deposit of coal ash from the Dan River near the Schoolfield Dam.
Duke Energy expects its work will be finished and the park reopened to the public in early July.
The park features a boat access ramp and a boathouse. The boathouse is open seasonally and allows water sports enthusiasts to rent a canoe, stand-up paddleboard or kayak hourly, daily or for the weekend. The Danville Parks and Recreation Department also uses the park as a river access point when it conducts water recreational classes.
“We will be able to move some of the classes we offer to Camilla Williams Park on Memorial Drive,” Parks and Recreation Director Bill Sgrinia said Friday. “However, the boathouse will be closed and access to the boat ramp will be blocked.
“Unfortunately, there is no alternative access point in Danville for citizens who want to rent canoes or kayaks and travel upstream.”
Duke Energy on Friday delivered compensation to the City of Danville for revenue the city will lose due to the closure of the park.
Once the park is closed, Duke Energy crews and contractors will prepare the site for the removal of the coal ash. Preparations will include erecting a fence at the park to provide security. The fence will not shield the activity from view, Duke Energy said.
Site preparations will take three to four weeks to complete. Once complete, crews will use vacuum dredging and dewatering equipment in the park and river to remove the coal ash.
Duke Energy said the EPA and other agencies have reviewed the removal plan and
The deposit of coal ash is located on the north bank of the river, across from the park. It
spans 350 yards by 20 yards, according to Duke Energy. It measures up to one foot in depth.
Crews will monitor the river and take steps to prevent movement of the coal ash during the
removal process.
The deposit was created after a pipe under the main coal ash pond at Duke Energy’s
shuttered Dan River Steam Station -- located 20 miles upstream from Danville -- broke on
Feb. 2 and spewed 30,000-39,000 tons of coal ash and 24-27 million gallons of water into the


DENR says it would support clarifying coal-ash groundwater pollution law

cjarvis@newsobserver.comMarch 28, 2014


— The state environmental agency on Friday said it would support clarifying a 2013 law, if necessary, to settle a dispute over just what the groundwater pollution legislation requires.The law is at the heart of a legal action pitting environmentalists against regulators and Duke Energy over the enforcement of laws meant to protect water quality threatened by coal ash ponds.
The complex groundwater section of a catch-all bill passed in the final hours of the General Assembly’s session in July is difficult to decipher. One issue is whether the new law expanded the size of the “compliance boundary” around coal-ash impoundments, within which pollution doesn’t have to be cleaned up.
The bill’s sponsors last year – and now John Skvarla, secretary of the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources – insist the law didn’t change the boundary requirement. Skvarla says the law simply codified what was already in practice under a rule interpreted by the state Environmental Management Commission, which adopts rules to protect the air and water.
On Friday, seven environmental advocacy groups sent a letter to Skvarla asking him to correct an “inaccurate and misleading” letter to the editor of The News & Observer published Tuesday where he made that point.
The groups point out that putting that interpretation of a rule into law did, in fact, change the law. Previously, the Environmental Management Commission relied on a rule that set the compliance boundary for older coal ash ponds at 500 feet or the property line, whichever was closer to the pollution source, and 250 feet or 50 feet from the property line for a newer facility. If pollution gets outside the boundary the fear is that it will contaminate rivers and other water.
Then in 2009, on advice from the attorney general’s office, the commission extended the compliance boundary to a facility’s property line. That interpretation was put into the 2013 bill at Duke Energy’s request.
Since the new law didn’t change the way the state has been employing the compliance boundary requirement over the past four years, Skvarla reasoned, it wasn’t accurate to say that the law extended the line for groundwater violations.
“This is incorrect,” the environmentalists’ letter says. “The legislation significantly relaxed the previous standard.”
Signing the letter are the N.C. Conservation Network, Cape Fear Riverkeeper, Cape Fear River Watch, Western North Carolina Alliance, Waterkeeper Alliance, Neuse Riverkeeper Foundation and Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.
Drew Elliot, a spokesman for DENR, said Friday that the department didn’t think at the time that the wording in the bill changed the current law, which is why the agency didn’t take a position on it. He said it appears there is an honest dispute.
“The bill language is certainly not clear,” Elliot said. “We stand by our position it didn’t change anything. If it did, then that was not our intent. It was not legislative intent, either. We support a statutory change to make that clearer.”
But D.J. Gerken, an attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center, says there is more at stake than semantics. The legal center is embroiled in contentious legal issues with DENR and Duke Energy over coal ash regulation.
Related Blog Posts:
  • NC Appeals Court rejects NC WARN’s challenge of Duke-Progress merger

    • Cape Fear dam crack
      On Friday, the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources issued a notice of deficiency to Duke Energy over the crack that developed in an earthen dam on a coal-ash pond at the Cape Fear plant in Chatham County. The notice requires Duke to submit comprehensive engineering reports and plans by April 7. The action by the state acknowledges that the company has repaired the crack, which was 4 to 5 inches wide and 35 feet long. The company could be fined if it doesn’t meet the deadline.

      Read more here:

    Read more here:
    EPA looked askance at DENR’s proposed coal ash settlement with Duke

    cjarvis@newsobserver.comMarch 31, 2014 

    The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency thought North Carolina regulators were too lenient when they came up with a settlement with Duke Energy over coal ash plants that imposed a relatively small fine.The EPA’s questioning of the proposed settlement in 2013 surfaced in thousands of emails and other records that the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources recently made public in response to numerous records requests by the news media, advocates and others.
    The records also portray the tensions among state regulators, their superiors and utility companies over the past four years as North Carolina began paying more attention to coal ash storage ponds, in the wake of the catastrophic spill of the material in Tennessee in 2008.
    A far smaller spill – although the third largest in U.S. history – occurred at Duke Energy’s plant in Rockingham County on Feb. 2, polluting the Dan River with coal ash sludge and wastewater. The spill occurred when a metal pipe running beneath the dam collapsed.
    A federal grand jury is investigating that spill and taking a close look at all 14 of the utility’s plants with coal ash ponds. Inspections had raised warnings about that pipe as far back as 1986, but Duke only monitored the water flowing out of the pipe rather than the recommended sending video cameras into them to check for leaks.
    The EPA,That amount “seems low considering the number of years these facilities are alleged to have been out of compliance,” the EPA response says. However, since the federal agency didn’t have information that DENR had incorrectly applied its penalty policy, it would be difficult to challenge the fines, the response says.
    The EPA also thought more testing and monitoring for pollution should be required. DENR says the settlement was appropriate, and that the main thrust of it required Duke to clean up and monitor the sites.
    Bio-assessment and water monitoring on the Dan River with Wayne and Betty Kirkpatrick and Brian Williams

    Posted: Saturday, March 29, 2014 12:00 am
    Uranium mining is just too dangerous
    Editor, Times-Dispatch:
    Virginia Uranium’s Walter Coles’ recent attack on the supporters of the ban on uranium mining and milling in Virginia is downright deceptive (Commentary column, “Uranium offers clean path to economic revival”).
    He says “overwhelming scientific evidence” has proven its safety. The National Academy of Sciences’ study he cites actually concluded that there are serious obstacles to uranium extraction and processing in Virginia because of the state’s unique topography and climate and its dense population.
    Coles says environmental groups are thwarting economic prosperity and entrepreneurialism. But towns, cities, chambers of commerce and economic development entities are among the strong opponents of lifting the ban. They are joined by small businesses, farmers, religious organizations, chapters of the NAACP and the Medical Society of Virginia.
    To understand why, look no further than Southside, where Duke Energy’s coal ash spilled into the Dan River. And coal ash is nothing compared with uranium’s radioactive and toxic tailings and waste. Millions of Virginians depend on drinking water from the Kerr Reservoir and Lake Gaston downstream from Virginia Uranium Inc.’s dream mine. An accident or a spill would be a nightmare we cannot risk.
    Blair Curcie. Montpelier.

    Letter from bias owner of UM( Keep the Ban):  Uranium offers clean path to economic revival ,                

    Saturday, March 22, 2014 4:00 pm Virginia Uranium Inc. has made encouraging progress in advancing the Coles Hill project in Pittsylvania County over the past seven years. Unfortunately, recent veto threats by Gov. Terry McAuliffe caused us to take a step back and not pursue legislation in 2014 as we had hoped:

    Our view: A duty to Danville

    Battles pitting economic and environmental interests provide standard fodder for political debates, but more often the two are complementary.
    Roanoke Valley economic development leaders have long recognized the symbiotic relationship and incorporated the region's natural assets into their sales pitches. Likewise, Danville has banked on its river to lead the city's evolution from a tobacco and textile town to a hub for technology and tourism. 
    Entrepreneurs brainstorm in red brick warehouses along the Dan River in the revitalized downtown, while visitors can stroll the river walk that feeds into a mountain bike trail, or plunge into the water for a canoe trip.
    "In Danville, we're intimate with the river," said City Manager Joe King in an interview last week. "I'm sitting in my office looking at the river right now."


    But after working hard to secure "scenic river" status for a stretch of the waterway, city leaders watched helplessly last month as its currents turned gray. A stormwater pipe burst beneath a 27-acre coal ash pond 25 miles from Danville, dumping 39,000 tons of power plant waste and coating 70 miles of riverbed in a sludge laced with arsenic, mercury and lead.

    A spokeswoman for Duke Energy, owner of the earthen pond, told The Associated Press, "We are responsible for costs directly related to this spill."


    King said he is hopeful that the North Carolina utility will make good on its promises, saying, "We are going to hold Duke to its word." He'd be wise to make a mental note of the word "directly."


    Danville officials are preparing three studies to assess the impact of the spill on their city while acknowledging the impossibility of full compensation. The negative publicity puts them at a disadvantage in competing for new businesses, some of which they are aware of and others that may dismiss the city without making contact.


    King said the city's reputation and economic wellbeing will be factored into damage assessments, along with more easily quantified variables such as overtime for workers at the water treatment plant who have put in extra effort to keep drinking water safe. Although communities can and have bounced back from even more extreme disasters, he said, "We'll be on everybody's coal spill map forever."


    "We don't see this as a payday," he added. "We wish it had never happened."


    Danville's most immediate need is for Duke to take visible and prompt steps toward remediation. A 300-by-50-yard deposit of coal sludge near the city's water treatment plant is scheduled for removal within the next week or two, a crucial signal for residents as well as business prospects. A longer-term cure will require removal of the remaining ash from the spill site and financial relief for affected communities.


    Danville leaders must be vigilant. The Dan River stretches between two states, neither possessing a stellar record on environmental protections. Indeed, environmental groups had sued Duke after North Carolina officials failed to address groundwater contamination from other ash ponds, only to have the state intervene with a paltry $99,000 fine. State officials yanked that slap-on-the-wrist settlement, which didn't even require Duke to remove ash from leaky ponds, after the February spill.


    The Dan River debacle should be a lesson to both states that "business-friendly" is no longer a code word for tolerating dirty and dangerous environmental abuses.