Duke Energy warned and scrutinized as coal ash cleanup continues

DANVILLE, Va. — The cleanup of coal ash from the Dan River is almost halfway done and is having little impact on river activity, according to Danville parks leaders.

That’s where the good news ends for Duke Energy.

Bad news comes in the form of a warning from the North Carolina Division of Energy, Mineral and Land Resources. On Wednesday, it issued a notice of deficiency letter for “gushers, drips and stains” inside a pipe carrying coal ash deposits from the Weatherspoon Steam Station in Lumberton.

The state agency is threatening a $500-a-day fine if a plan for addressing the issues is not in place by July 20.

The state would also like Duke Energy to come up with new engineering plans for two other stations, Sutton Steam Station in Wilmington and the Asheville Steam Station.

Meanwhile, the News & Observer is reporting that inspection records dating back to 1986 and 1992 show concerns about the pipes that failed in February of this year. The records came from North Carolina Utilities Commission, which used to regulate the power company for the state. They were requested by a federal grand jury launched after February’s coal ash spill in the Dan River.

Cleanup of the largest deposit of coal ash discovered since that spill is about halfway done. The EPA and Duke Energy have discovered about 2,500 tons of ash and sediment in Danville. So far, about 1,200 tons have been removed.

Danville Park leaders said there has been little impact to their summer water programs like kayaking and paddle boarding with the cleanup underway. More than 80 people have signed up and the city hasn’t had a problem filling classes.

“I noticed there are a lot of people still fishing on the side of the river and that doesn’t seem to be a problem,” said Brian Buchanan with the city recreational program. “I’ve only had one person that’s expressed any concern about being in the water.”

The cleanup is still on schedule to finish in July.

The crew will then move to another site identified for cleanup that only shows about 50 tons of ash and sediment buildup between Eden and Danville in an area known as Town Creek.

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