Comments: Remove the ash ponds off the Dan River now......DENR: fines will not help anything, make DE clean up their mess!
N.C. orders Duke Energy to act after finding more faulty pipesBy Danielle Battaglia
(Greensboro, N.C.) News & Record | Posted: Friday, June 27, 2014 8:46 am
The coal ash basin at Duke Energy's Dan River Steam Station near Eden after a drain pipe running underneath it collapsed, allowing an estimated 39,000 tons of ash to flow into the river on Feb. 2, 2014.
That plant was one of three coal-ash impoundments with enough problems to force the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources to issue a notice of deficiency. Duke has 30 days to come up with a plan to address the issues.
DENR began taking a closer look at how coal ash is disposed of after a spill Feb. 2 at the plant in Eden. A leaking pipe released 39,000 tons of toxic coal ash from the plant’s primary pond into the Dan River. Coal ash, a byproduct of burning coal to generate electricity, contains contaminants and heavy metals.
After reviewing video from 33 coal ash impoundments around the state, DENR officials said Thursday they had found numerous problems at the facility on the Dan River.
Video of a horizontal pipe system used to discharge wastewater from the coal-ash impoundment showed numerous holes and leaks throughout a concrete barrel pipe.
The video shows tree roots growing throughout joints in the pipe and some joints displaced.
Several blockages prevent flow through the pipe.
“Your dam is considered a ‘high hazard’ dam,” DENR said in its letter to Duke. “In the event of dam failure, significant environmental damage to the Dan River could occur due to the release of coal ash stored behind the dam.”
But DENR isn’t that concerned about this newly reported leak, at least not yet.
“If there was any kind of high risk at this point, we would have staff engineers on site,” spokeswoman Bridget Munger said.
That hasn’t happened.
Said Jamie Kritzer, a spokesman for DENR: “We do not believe these pose an imminent threat to the structural integrity of the dams.”
He didn’t say Rockingham County shouldn’t be concerned by the leak, Kritzer said, it’s just not an immediate threat.
“They (the problems) are something that we’re concerned enough about that we have issued this notice to Duke to address this,” Kritzer said. “They do not represent an imminent threat to the dam itself.”
Munger went even further, saying the pipe’s location makes it impossible for coal ash to leak.
Duke Energy used the pipe that broke in February as a stormwater drain. This pipe is different.
“It is a wastewater collection and discharge system and the piping system runs beneath, I believe, the dam for that particular impoundment,” Kritzer said. “That’s the one we’re talking about today.”
The coal ash pond acts as a wastewater system. The coal ash is kept wet in order to keep it from flying free.
Cleaned wastewater settles on the top of the pond. Coal ash sinks to the bottom.
When water in the pond reaches a certain level, it flows to the top of a pipe that connects to a horizontal pipe where the water flows out to be discharged.
The leaking pipe is discharging cleaned wastewater into the Dan River in small increments, which doesn’t pose a threat, Munger said.
The threat comes if the dam breaks, which would release toxic coal ash into the river.
DENR previously told Duke Energy to perform camera inspections at coal ash impoundments around the state.
“We basically said to Duke, ‘You need to go through and look at all of your piping systems at your coal ash impoundments,’ ” Kritzer said. “Duke did that and they sent us their video they ran through the piping systems.”
Kritzer said the DENR staff reviewed the videos and sent three letters of deficiency to Duke Energy for the power plants in Chatham, Person and Rockingham counties.
It also sent letters requiring the company to provide engineering assessments for piping systems at coal-ash impoundments at power plants located in Wayne, Person, Chatham and Stokes counties. This includes the Belews Creek Steam Station.
The company is being asked to provide repair plans for all deficiencies or engineering assessment for pipes with less serious problems.
If Duke Energy does not provide repair schedules or engineering assessments within 30 days, it could face action, including a fine.