RALEIGH, N.C. — The N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources said a second leaking pipe at Duke Energy’s coal ash pond facility in Eden is nearly completely plugged.
Tuesday, the agency ordered Duke Energy to “immediately halt discharges of material” from the 36-inch pipe. It is under the same coal ash basin in Eden where a 48-inch reinforced corrugated steel storm water pipe broke Feb. 2, releasing 30,000-39,000 tons of coal ash into the Dan River.
Wednesday, FOX8 requested more information about the second pipe. Public Information Officer Jamie Kritzer wrote in an email, “DENR knew the pipe existed because it was included in the site plan… However, DENR did not know the pipe was damaged until Feb 11, 2014 when a staff engineer reviewed video that Duke Energy had taken inside the pipe on Feb. 6.”
Kritzer went on to explain, “Upon viewing the video, DENR detected deficiencies in the 36-inch storm water pipe.” On Feb. 14 Kritzer said DENR gave Duke ten days to develop a plan and schedule to fix the pipe. They also took water quality samples where the storm water pipe begins and where it discharges to the Dan River.
Initial testing came back on Tuesday of this week, Kritzer explained. Tests showed an elevated level of arsenic, which is one indicator of the presence of coal ash.
“Within an hour or two of learning the test results, DENR ordered Duke Energy to immediately halt discharges of material from the leaking 36-inch pipe. As of this morning, Duke Energy reported they have contained 90-95 percent of the water coming from the 36-inch pipe and are working to fully contain the leak,” concluded Kritzer.
DENR does not know how long the second pipe has been leaking coal ash and said it was not possible to know the total amount of coal ash that may have leaked over time. They are waiting for additional test results.
In a press release, the agency said their staff remains concerned about the cumulative impacts of coal ash on the Dan River and its possible long-term effects on aquatic life.
DENR also hosted a press conference in Raleigh Wednesday, where they reviewed the state’s legal history of coal ash lawsuits and legislation over the last several years.
DENR Secretary John Skvarla emphasized his belief that the agency is partners with citizen environmental groups, and they work together to protect the environment. He said they consider those groups partners at the table when considering how to address coal ash concerns in North Carolina.
He said any reports that DENR has ever made “smoky backroom deals” with Duke Energy are “absolutely not true.”
Greenpeace NC and the North Carolina Conservation Network told FOX8 they hoped Wednesday’s press conference would focus more on coal ash remediation and removal efforts.
NC Conservation Network policy analyst Nadia Luhr explained, “DENR really needs to look at the option of moving all of the coal ash out of the coal ash ponds in NC and having it moved to safe, lined landfills away from water resources. They’re doing it in South Carolina and we can do it in North Carolina.”
Skvarla said in his experience, the “desired outcome” of citizen groups is often “one size fits all.”
He explained, “We’re talking 14 facilities and 32 coal ash ponds [in North Carolina]. I can assure you it’s not that simple.”
“Our goal is to clean up coal ash, protect the environment, and protect the citizens of North Carolina,” Skvarla added.
Meanwhile, the Environmental Protection Agency is hosting a community meeting in Eden Wednesday night.
FOX8’s Lindsey Eaton will have the latest from that meeting at 10 p.m.