Thursday, May 22, 2014

Coal Ash Continues

Commentsfrom KM: 
This is an interesting document re: Person Co. Upper Piedmont Landfill which is receiving the Duke coal ash from the Dan. It is referred to as a franchise. What does that mean? It also sounds like it is expected to operate until 2017. What happens after that? Will acceptance of the coal ash decrease the longevity of the landfill...before 2017? How much $$$ is Person Co. receiving to accept the ash? Is there a third party also financially benefiting? Who might that be? What is the population like surrounding the landfill? What are their thoughts regarding taking the coal ash? so sad...again...can't help but think of the impact of a radioactive spill from Coles Hill

Despite technology, much of coal ash will remain in Dan River

By Taft Wireback/News & Record | Posted: Monday, May 12, 2014 9:47 pm
DANVILLE, Va. — Duke Energy unveiled the Total Clean Station and other impressive technology Monday at the start of a six-week effort to recover the largest of three, known deposits from North Carolina’s Feb. 2 coal ash spill.
But the prospects look grim for recapturing huge amounts of the remaining ash that escaped through a ruptured drainage pipe at the Dan River Steam Station on the outskirts of Eden three months ago.
Duke Energy officials acknowledged that removing the 2,500-ton deposit upstream from the Schoolfield Dam only scratched the surface of roughly 39,000 tons of ash lost from a storage basin at the retired, coal-fired plant.
The accumulated ash near Danville measures up to a foot thick in places and extends along the river bottom more than three football fields in length by about 20 yards wide, Duke Energy spokesman Jeff Brooks said.
The other two known deposits — both in North Carolina, near the plant — amount to a total of only 60 tons or so.
Brooks and an official with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency said other sites along 70 miles of river downstream from the shuttered steam station are under review, but no other spot has been approved yet for cleanup.
The company will recover the maximum it can of the total spilled, Brooks said, but he acknowledged some of the missing coal ash will not be recaptured.
“We’re going to get what’s safe to get and what doesn’t impact the environment negatively in getting,” he said.
That leaves it unclear how much of the missing material will either go undiscovered or be discovered but left in place, to remain buried in the river bottom or to decompose in ways that regulators don’t think likely to cause significant harm.
Brooks said that Duke Energy and governmental regulators will continue looking for more coal ash indefinitely up and down the river, because of coal ash’s potential to move with the river current, settle out in places and then be swept away again.
“That’s why we have to continue the monitoring for several years,” Brooks said.
But Duke Energy was all about whiz-bang technology Monday afternoon. The utility held an open house for the media to celebrate the debut of an elaborate operation to scoop up what’s believed to be the granddaddy of ash clusters, just upstream from Danville’s city-owned hydroelectric dam.
Brooks and other Duke officials described a process to retrieve the waste gulp by gulp, without disturbing the submerged pile of toxic material in ways that could send some of it back into the river to pollute elsewhere.
Duke Energy contractors start to accomplish that, Brooks said, with what amounts to a gigantic, underwater vacuum cleaner atop a dredge barge. A six-foot-wide sweeper stirs up the top layer of the ash mixture in the riverbed a split-second before gobbling up the ensuing cloud of ash, sediment and other debris.
The watery gunk then moves through a long pipe across the river, onto dry land and into Duke Energy’s impromptu work compound in what was a city park until recently.
The first stop there is probably the most impressive: The Total Clean Station, a massive trailer with catwalks about 15 feet above ground leading to four vibrating bins that screen out larger debris, sand and other junk while moving the still-contaminated, “turbid water” that remains into a clarifier tank.
In the tank, Brooks said, the remaining water that still contains ash gets cleaned as the fine particles of contaminated material settle to the bottom for further processing.
Clean water gets skimmed off the top of the clarifier and flows back to the river, while the machine sends the underlying polluted stuff onward to two other contraptions that add special polymers and then squeeze out any remaining water.
Huge, metal roll-off containers mark the coal ashes’ last stop in Danville, where the dried-out mixture collects until the giant bin is full.
Trucks haul away the bins full of contaminated material to the Upper Piedmont Landfill, about 30 miles away near Rougemont, N.C., in Person County. The facility is a double-lined site run by private waste handler Republic Services, Brooks said.
Initial estimates of how much spilled in the February mishap ranged from 50,000 tons of coal ash to 82,000 tons. The estimate stemmed from rough, eyeball assessments by company employees. Later, an outside contractor used more sophisticated methods to fix the amount of lost ash at 30,000 to 39,000 tons, an estimate the EPA and other government regulators have adopted.
But much of that lost material might be gone for good, judging from the lack of specifics available at Monday’s event.
First, although relatively pure coal ash streamed into the Dan from the retired electric plant three months ago, the Schoolfield deposit is a mixture of ash and natural sediments, Brooks said. So it’s unclear how much pure ash collected in the Danville deposit or in the other two, much-smaller deposits near the plant.
In addition, it remains anybody’s guess how many more sites regulators eventually will clear for similar cleanup efforts. EPA on-site coordinator Myles Bartos did not want to say or estimate how many other sites were under consideration for cleanup action beyond the three, already made public.
He said those additional sites will be analyzed one by one, and a decision made about what action should be taken at each by the agency, environmental and health regulators from both states, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, other governmental agencies and Duke Energy.
These decisions are made in a roundtable-like discussion among the various cleanup partners, Brooks said.
Some places could qualify for cleanup efforts similar to those underway at Schoolfield, planned at the second largest deposit at Town Creek just downstream from the North Carolina plant, and completed two months ago at the plant itself.
The incident occurred when a storm water drainage pipe ruptured under the basin, allowing the contents from above to gush through the undamaged portion of the pipe and straight into the river.
In some cases, Bartos said, regulators could decide against removing the ash from sites on their “unresolved” list for a variety of factors, such as being located in a part of the river where its unlikely to do any harm or being located in a spot where removal would cause more pollution than it would remove,
“You have to take the entire picture into account,” Bartos said. “It’s a thought process with an evaluation of multiple factors.”