EDEN, N.C. — More than a week after 82,000 tons of coal ash spilled from a Duke Energy storm pipe into the Dan River, students at Stokes Early College High School are still trying to understand what it all means.
“Dan River is near us. Everyone was worried that it was in our water downstream,” said 10th grader Scotti Hooker.
That’s why Hooker asked her teachers to plan a field trip to the Dan River, so students could see the affected area first-hand. Yadkin Riverkeeper staff were also invited to provide background information to students on Duke Energy coal ash ponds across the state.
“They’re not just watching a video. It’s not happening across the world. It’s happening right here in their backyard,” said Sayrd Prince, a teacher at Stokes Early College High School.
Prince says students planned to test the water and write a blog about their findings, but with high levels of dangerous chemicals in the water, Riverkeeper staff suggested students keep their distance.
“This is toxic material. You need to have gloves and all the right equipment,” said Dean Naujoks, a Yadkin Riverkeeper. “People are concerned. It doesn’t surprise me that students would want to come out to get a better understanding, rather than just learning from a classroom what this coal ash spill will mean for the ecosystem.”
State officials are calling this the third worst coal ash spill in U.S. history. Although crews may have stopped this leak, students learned the problem isn’t solved.
“We have questions and want answers about why this is happening,” said Hooker.
The Environmental Protection Agency, along with state and local officials, plan to give the community an update on the cleanup efforts in Danville Tuesday evening.