Update on cleanup efforts following Dan River coal ash spill

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DANVILLE, Va. — Curiosity turned many heads on Memorial Drive in Danville Monday.

The public saw activity increase tenfold and road signs added to Memorial Drive that warned them to watch for trucks entering the road.

It’s all to prepare for the removal of coal ash from the Dan River near Abreu-Grogan Park.

Cranes, pumps and other heavy duty equipment are now filling the parking lot that’s normally used by Danville residents who enjoy canoeing and kayaking.

A spokesman for Danville Parks and Recreation said the city plans on moving that entry point for water sports to another park but didn’t indicate which park could become the temporary home for paddle boat and canoe rentals.

A spokesman for Duke Energy said the cleanup begins later this week. The job is now in the hands of contractors but Duke Energy continues to test river water.

They’ve said that their tests show that the water quality in the river is back to pre-spill levels.

Further downstream, at the Angler’s Park entrance, FOX8 found a utility crew parked in the lot.

“I saw them put in this morning they went down on a raft,” said Billy Whitney.

Whitney is an avid fisherman. He said he doesn’t see the cleanup affecting activity on the Dan River this summer. He says he’s seen just as many boaters since the Feb. 2 incident as he’s seen in previous years.

“Duke is the one with the reputation they have to worry about, not Danville,” said Whitney.

But others, like Frank Reynolds, have seen the response to the spill and that has kept him from joining Whitney on the river this spring.

“Since the river has been contaminated with the coal ash I go to Smith Mountain Lake,” said Reynolds.

Curiosity brought him to the water’s edge Monday. He says it won’t be enough though to make him feel comfortable in the water.

“Someday it might be clean enough for swimming, playing, all that stuff; but it’s not going to be in my lifetime,” said Reynolds.

Weather delayed the start of clean up until this week. Duke Energy said it expects the ash coal removal to be finished in July.

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