Duke Energy settles Dan River ash spill issues with EPA

Duke Energy (NYSE: DUK) announced May 22 that it has signed an agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regarding cleanup of the coal ash release into the Dan River that occurred in February at the retired Dan River power plant in Eden, N.C.

“This agreement represents a significant milestone in Duke Energy’s ongoing efforts to restore and monitor the Dan River and surrounding environment,” Duke said. “Duke Energy is fully committed to the river’s long-term health and well-being. River water quality has returned to normal and drinking water has remained safe.”

The deal outlines the parameters for a cleanup, including that within 14 days of the this deal becoming effective, a cleanup coordinator be named. It also names an EPA on-scene coordinator. It includes an agreement to remove spill residue from behind a dam in Virginia, 27 miles downstream from the power plant spill site.

The agreement governs the company’s continuing responsibilities for the removal of coal ash from the Dan River under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), including:

  • The continuation of surface water, drinking water and sediment assessments and monitoring as determined by the EPA in consultation with the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and local jurisdictions to detect the presence of contamination until implementation of a removal site assessment;
  • The treatment of water generated as a result of the removal work in accordance with National Pollution Elimination Discharge System requirements and applicable surface water quality standards;
  • The development and implementation of a comprehensive removal site assessment to determine the extent of any residual contamination remaining in the Dan River to and including Kerr Reservoir, Va., after completion of the removal activities;
  • The disposal off-site of all removed coal ash;
  • The preparation of a coal ash spill prevention plan for the Dan River Steam Station; and
  • The preparation and EPA approval of a plan to ensure the protection of the public health and safety during the performance of on-site work pursuant to the EPA agreement.

Duke also agreed to pay to the EPA all past and agreed-upon future direct and indirect costs incurred by the United States in connection with the implementation, oversight and enforcement of the agreement, as well as certain penalties ranging from $1,000 to $8,000 per violation per day for failure to comply with the agreement or up to $500,000 in the event the EPA assumes the performance of work under the agreement.

Duke said the total costs to the company to remediate the Dan River Steam Station ash basin release, including costs under the agreement, are not expected to be material to the company. Other costs related to the Dan River Steam Station ash basin release, including regulatory directives, natural resources damages, pending litigation, future claims or litigation, long-term environmental impact costs, long-term operational changes, and costs associated with new laws and regulations as well as the management of other ash basins cannot be reasonably estimated at this time, the company added.

About Barry Cassell 20414 Articles
Barry Cassell is Chief Analyst for GenerationHub covering coal and emission controls issues, projects and policy. He has covered the coal and power generation industry for more than 24 years, beginning in November 2011 at GenerationHub and prior to that as editor of SNL Energy’s Coal Report. He was formerly with Coal Outlook for 15 years as the publication’s editor and contributing writer, and prior to that he was editor of Coal & Synfuels Technology and associate editor of The Energy Report. He has a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University.