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Environmentalists still concerned 1 year after massive coal ash spill

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EDEN, N.C. — Environmental and water quality reports say the Dan River is recovering from the Duke Energy coal ash spill that happened last year in Eden.

On February 2, 2014, up to 39,000 tons of coal spilled into the Dan River when a storm water pipe at the Dan River coal plant snapped.

Dan River Basin Association Program Manager Brian Williams has been monitoring the river ever since.

Williams agrees the Dan River is safe for drinking and boating. But he worries about the river's long term health.

"Coal ash contains heavy metals that can be detrimental to the environment,” he said.

Duke Energy removed about 4,000 cubic yards of coal ash from the Dan River last year. But the remaining coal ash is now buried at the bottom of the river.

The Dan River Basin Association has partnered with Salem College, UNC-Greensboro and three other universities to test the water and determine the long term effects of coal ash.

The association will also work with other groups to change the rules that govern coal ash ponds.

"We don't want to see another spill,” said Williams, "We want to see these coal ash ponds moved away from our water systems, they leach into the rivers."

Until there is a better understanding of the long term affects from coal ash, Jenny Edwards with the Dan River Basin Association said we should continue to use the Dan River for fun.

"Right now the best thing you can do is use the river and let your friends know about it,” Edwards said.