Duke Energy reports progress on Dan River cleanup in North Carolina

Almost a year after a coal ash spill blackened the Dan River in North Carolina and also the reputation of Duke Energy (NYSE: DUK), Duke said Jan. 27 that there are positive signs that the river is recovering.

Research from universities, regulators and industry experts increasingly demonstrates that the Dan River is in good condition one year after a coal ash spill at the retired Dan River Steam Station, Duke said. Duke Energy N.C. President Paul Newton on Jan. 27 joined local leaders from Eden and Rockingham County at an update, entitled “The State of Our Rivers,” to share ongoing findings that indicate the river is thriving.

Findings to support a positive outlook for the river include:

  • Tests by the state of North Carolina, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA) and Duke Energy demonstrate water quality in the Dan River returned to normal levels a few days after the ash release. Drinking water quality always remained safe.
  • An April 2014 study by North Carolina State University detailed the river’s suitability to be used for crops and livestock.
  • A July 2014 evaluation by the U.S. EPA indicated cleanup work along the river was complete. Duke Energy said it worked at the direction of the U.S. EPA to remove coal ash from the river and continues monitoring activities in partnership with other agencies.
  • A November 2014 study by Alderman Environmental Services, one of the nation’s leading mussel experts, concluded mussel life in the river is flourishing.
  • A November 2014 study by the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) that found macroinvertebrates, a key indicator of the river’s health, were healthy up and down the Dan River. 

Since the spill, Duke Energy has conducted a major operation, under the direction of the U.S. EPA, to excavate and monitor coal ash in the river. The company has also performed thousands of tests from the plant to Kerr Lake in partnership with state and federal agencies to study ongoing conditions in the river.

“Nearly a year ago, I came to Eden on a much more somber day,” said Newton at the event. “I made a pledge that day on behalf of Duke Energy – that we would use all available resources in our response to the Dan River accident, and that Duke Energy would do the right thing for the river and the communities that depend on it. Today, I am glad to say that the river is thriving, and there’s hard science that tells us so.”

Duke Energy said it continues to work with state and federal regulators. Ongoing monitoring programs in the Dan River and Roanoke River basins include fish community assessments, fish tissue analysis and other important samples. All scientific indicators point to the fact that the river is thriving.

In addition to work along the Dan River, Duke Energy said it has also made significant strides in enhancing its broader management of coal ash across the Carolinas.

Headquartered in Charlotte, N.C., Duke Energy is a Fortune 250 company traded on the New York Stock Exchange. Its subsidiaries in the Carolinas are Duke Energy Progress and Duke Energy Carolinas.

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.