Study provides relief for Rockingham County farmers after coal ash spill

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ROCKINGHAM COUNTY, N.C. -- Claude Angell and his wife Sherry are breathing easier these days.

"Sometimes it's best to wait and let some tests be done," Sherry said.

They grow hay on a 16-acre farm along the Dan River in Eden where more than 30,000 tons of coal ash spilled into the river in 2014.

“Our office started getting concerns from farmers about livestock, irrigation out of the river,” said Will Strader, Rockingham County Extension director.

But now, more than three years after the spill, researchers with North Carolina State University say the spill hasn't caused any harmful effects on soil or crops along the Dan River.

“I was ecstatic when I saw the results of this study,” Strader said.

The study covers a 57-mile stretch of the river, according to Strader.

More than 1,000 soil samples were taken along with more than 400 crop samples.

“That just confirms what I've been seeing on the land,” farmer Claude Angell said. “I've seen no change in the crop, no change in the grass."

Members of the non-profit Dan River Basin Association say the report is good news, but it may take more than a few years to see the spill's real impact.

"There have been no short term effects, but I caution that we need to continue to study the river and to follow and monitor what is happening over longer periods of time," said Tiffany Haworth, executive director of DRBA.

There's no word yet on if the researchers behind the report will be doing more sampling or running more tests in the future.

The NC State study was paid for through a Duke Energy research grant.