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Ash spill costs top $12,722 locally — so far

The Feb. 2 Duke Energy coal ash spill in Eden, N.C., has cost the Halifax County Service Authority $12,722.15 so far.

During the Thursday afternoon meeting of the Halifax County Service Authority Board of Directors, Executive Director Mark Estes updated directors on current activity related to the spill. 

Duke continues coal ash sediment assessments along the Dan River near Danville, Estes said, however high river flows following recent snow events have prevented river access because of unsafe conditions. 

These assessments will likely continue for the next few weeks to map out areas for possible coal ash removal, the authority executive director said. 

U.S. Fish and Wildlife continues to evaluate areas upstream of the Schoolfield Dam in Danville for endangered species. Future operations will center on Dan River assessments and removal operations over the near future and be centered in Danville because of ease of access to the river.

Duke visually assessed the mudflats in Kerr Reservoir, but it was unclear if the sediments contained ash, Estes said. 

Duke assessed three areas in the Dan River around South Boston and Danville where sand mining occurs. No coal ash was immediately visible in any of these areas. However, the river flow was high, and future assessments may be warranted.

Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and North Carolina Department of Natural Resources also have scaled back to once per week on surface and drinking water samples, according to Estes. 

DEQ and DNR have collected fish tissue samples over the previous two weeks, and Duke also has collected fish tissue samples and is running analysis at their own lab.

For safety reasons, Duke is electing to simply remove the remaining sections of ungrouted 48” and 36” storm water pipes currently located under the primary ash basin. Plans call for the removal of the entire coal ash basins and to close the impoundments. 

Approximately a 400-foot section of the 48-inch pipe and a 500-foot section of the 36-inch pipe remain ungrouted under the primary ash basin.

With the closure of two major storm water pipes that divert rain event water around the ash basins, a large quantity of storm water is being diverted to the primary ash basin tower, which flows to the secondary ash basin. 

Dukes NPDES permit at the secondary ash basin continues to handle a large quantity of storm water from the site, he said.

During a stakeholders’ meeting on Wednesday, March 12, Virginia’s DEQ stated fish sampling efforts of 18 species collected near the Schoolfield Dam in Danville, indicated no significant levels of arsenic or metals were found in fish tissue. 

The DEQ will use this sampling as a background event for future fish studies this spring and summer, Estes said.

South Boston, Danville and Clarksville water treatment plants continue to monitor the situation and report any problems. EPA will develop a step-by-step procedure for sample collection and provide it to each of the water treatment plants for the episodic sampling events.  

The plants report no problems with removing the increased sediment, and there is no impact to the finished water. No impacts to drinking water have been reported at any of the water treatment facilities, Estes concluded.