Dan River Coal Ash Spill

Coal Ash Spill -Duke Energy stores more than 150 million tons of coal ash in 32 dumps at 14 power plants in the state.

  • Feb 2, 2014: A 48 –inch storm water pipe beneath the unlined ash pond from the shuttered Dan River Steam Station broke. Duke Energy estimated that 82,000 tons of coal ash and 24 to 27 million gallons of basin water from the 27-acre pond drained into the Dan River. The company began alerting municipalities downstream by 6 pm. They did not know when the spill started.
  • Feb. 5: Duke Energy continued efforts to stop the spill.
  • Feb. 8: Duke Energy crews plugged the leak that allowed coal ash to spill into the Dan River for 6 days.
  • Feb. 9: Duke Energy set up an emergency piping system to divert wastewater away from the pond that leaked coal ash into the Dan River.
  • Feb. 10:Federal prosecutors served N.C. environmental agency with two subpoenas. N.C. Dept. of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) withdrew its deal with Duke. (After nonprofits threatened lawsuits against Duke over coal ash leaks throughout the state, DENR officials took over the suit and proposed a deal that included a $99,000 fine for pollution at stream stations near Asheville and Charlotte.)
  • Feb. 11: Environmentalists offered a $5,000 reward for information leading to criminal or civil charges surrounding the spill. Gov. Pat McCrory said a new state task force would be created in the next 30 days to assess all 31 of Duke’s coal ash dumps in the state.
  • Feb. 12: Duke Energy downgraded its estimate of how much coal ash was released. The new range is 30,000 to 39,000 tons. N.C. Dept. of Environment and Natural Resources’ tests found levels of arsenic and other metals to be safe.
  • Feb. 13: The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of N.C. opened an “official criminal investigation of a suspected felony”. Duke Energy officials announced an “un-permitted discharge” of water and treated wastewater of less than 1,000 gallons from the piping system set up on Feb. 9.
  • Feb. 14: State environmental officials sounded an alarm that a second pipe at Duke Energy's closed Dan River Steam Plant threatens to start a whole, new round of leakage from its coal-ash storage ponds.
  • Feb. 17: The N.C. State Legislature's Environmental Review Commission heard details of the spill from a Duke official, Tom Reeder, the state division of water resources director, John Skvaria, the state environmental secretary and from environmental advocates. The meeting ended without an indication whether they will seek any legislative solutions.
  • Feb. 17: Governor Pat McCrory, speaking at N.C. AT&T spoke about the second leak, saying that the spill stems from a 36-inch drainage pipe with structural problems. McCrory said that his administration would require Duke to fix the new problems at Dan River, correct the damage left by the initial pipe rupture and quickly solve the rest of the company's coal ash problems throughout North Carolina.
  • Feb.18: N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources ordered Duke Energy to stop all discharges from a second leaking pipe under the Eden ash basin. Gov. McCrory's administration clarified statements made the previous day regarding the removal of coal ash basins near water sources like the Dan River and said he only meant that removal was one option.
  • Feb. 18: N.C. DENR said that groundwater containing unsafe levels of arsenic are leaching into the Dan River and coal ash has spread as far as 70 miles downstream.
  • Feb. 18: Federal prosecutors served N.C. environmental agency with 20 more subpoenas seeking documents and ordering 19 state employees to testify before a grand jury an ordered state officials to hand over any records pertaining to investments, cash or other items of value received from Duke Energy employees. The subpoenas were dated Feb. 11 and 18.
  • Feb. 19: A press release from Governor McCrory's office stated: "Gov. McCrory believes that moving the coal ash ponds is the best option".
  • Feb. 20: DENR filed a letter with the court telling Judge Paul Ridgeway that it might consider reinstating the previous deal that they had put on hold on Feb. 10.
  • Feb. 21: N.C. state officials says that Duke Energy has plugged the second pipe that was leaking arsenic-laced groundwater into the Dan River.
  • Feb. 23: Wake Forest University professor, Dennis Lemly says that a conservative baseline cost of the spill is $70 million in damage to fish, wildlife and other related aspects of the economy.
  • Feb. 24: DENR specialists began sampling fish upstream from the spill to get data from an area unaffected by the spill, then they will sample sited downstream. Results will be published.
  • Feb. 28: Duke resumed cleaning deposits of coal ash in shallow water, but gave up efforts in deeper waters. Iron and aluminum continue to test higher than state guidelines. The state issued a second violation notice to Duke Energy for failing to prevent the spill and exceeding state water quality standards of the river.
  • Mar. 4: Superior Court Judge Paul Ridgeway ruled that state officials had failed to properly apply the law and that they must force Duke Energy to "take Immediate action" against groundwater pollution at their coal ash ponds. Duke reviewed plans to close a coal ash pond at the defunct Weatherspoon Steam Electric Plant in Robeson County.
  • Mar.5: State officials told Duke Energy to do video inspections of all pipes at the ash ponds near 14 of its current and former coal-fired power plants.
  • Mar. 10: State and federal officials deny published reports of a third 12-inch pipe leak. The Feb. 18 federal subpoena was made public. The U.S. Attorney's office for Eastern North Carolina plans a thorough examination of Duke Energy's ash-handling practices. Federal investigators subpoenaed more than 10 years of records from the N.C. Utilities Commission.
  • Mar. 12: In response to the governor's request for a detailed report on the company's coal ash sites, Duke Energy sent a 4 -page letter to Gov. Pat McCrory and DENR Secretary John Skvarla detailing their efforts to deal with the coal ash spill. DENR rejected the response as inadequate.
  • Mar. 13: Pricey Harrison, N.C. House of Representative from Greensboro, says she will be the chief author of a bill requiring Duke Energy to close its ash pits, move the toxic waste to secure landfills and foot the entire bill without passing along costs to consumers.
  • Mar. 13: Emails show that NC DENR and Duke Energy were coordinating before DENR intervened in efforts by citizens group trying to sue Duke over groundwater pollution from coal ash dumps.
  • Mar. 19: Demonstrators protest at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center Duke Energy's plant to charge electric customers the expense of cleaning up the coal ash ponds.
  • Mar. 20: The Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) filed motions to allow four conservation groups working on the Dan River to participate in the state court enforcement action against Duke Energy. The group assembled documentation showing that Duke Energy and the N.C. DENR have know about the problems since the early 1990s.
  • Mar. 20: Duke EnergyCEO Lynn Good's2013 compensation totaled almost $6.5 million, according to a company filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission,including a salary of $929,167 and short-term incentive-plan compensation worth $1.1 million.
  • Mar. 20: State environmental officials investigate a crack in a dam around a Duke Energy coal ash pond near the Cape Fear River in Chatham County. State regulators cited the former power plant site for improperly pumping and estimated 61.8 million gallons of coal ash wastewater into the river.
  • Mar. 24: The Blue RidgeEnvironmentalDefense League urges Duke not be allowed to use landfills to dispose of its waste from the Dan River ash basin in Eden and 13 other sites around the state. They suggest that Duke Energy use vaults and treat coal ash the same as radioactive waste.
  • Mar. 27: Duke Energy stockholders ask for an independent investigation on the Feb. 2 coal ash spill.
  • Mar. 28: Duke Energy asks a judge to shield its records from N.C. regulators and environmental groups while a federal criminal probe is ongoing. N.C. DENR said tests of surface water found thallium near Cliffside plant in Gaston County and downstream from Duke's Asheville plant., near the Broad River. DENR also issued Duke Energy a citation for the large crack in a coal ash dam at the Cape Fear plant in Chatham County.
  • Apr. 4: Superior Court Judge, Paul C. Ridgeway ruled that Duke Energy could not have a blanket order to keep coal ash records away from environmental groups.
  • Apr. 7: North Carolina Environmental Management Commission filed intent to appeal Judge Ridgeway's March 6 ruling that said Duke Energy should immediately cleanup the spill.
  • Apr. 13: Utility workers recover a piece of metal pipe that might have been a part of the broken drainage line that spilled the coal ash into the Dan River.
  • Apr. 14: Duke unveils plans to vacuum up a 2,500-ton deposit near Danville's Schoolfield Dam, which accumulated 6 to 8 percent of the entire spill.
  • Apr. 16: Gov. McCrory announces proposal to prevent future coal ash spills: Close all Duke Energy's existing coal ash ponds in N.C. or convert them to solid-waste landfills. End loopholes in state law and tighten other controls on coal ash ponds. Eliminate special exemptions for those operating the ponds. Boost regulations that promote dam safety and protect water quality. Add 19 employees to the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
  • Apr. 16: Duke Energy and N.C. A&T released a report that says levels of contaminants are at acceptable levels for livestock and irrigation.
  • Apr.17: Duke Energy estimates cost of the spill through March 31 to be $15 million and reported earnings of $2.7 billion for 2013.
  • Apr. 22: Duke's N.C. president, Paul Newton, told N.C. legislators that electric customers would likely pay the bill on an estimated $10 billion clean up of all of the company's coal ash sites. They propose removing coal ash stored at four power plants but leave ash at ten other sites covered with plastic and soil. Duke Energy found, submerged in the Dan River, a piece of the metal pipe that was part of the drainage line that failed on Feb. 2.
  • Apr. 24: Duke Energy petitioned the court to delay implementation of Judge Ridgeway's March order for immediate action to stop groundwater leaks from coal ash ponds.
  • April 29: Danville expects to hire an attorney - experienced in environmental cases - tho help protect the city's interests regarding the coal ash spill.
  • May 12: Duke Energy unveiled the Total Clean Station and other technology at the start of a six-week effort to recover deposits from the spill.
  • May 13: Person County Board of Commissioners consider a resolution calling for the coal ash to be stored on Duke Energy's property and not the Upper Piedmont Landfill.
  • May 14: N.C. State Senators Phil Berger and Tom Apodoca introduced Gov. Pat McCrory's proposal for coal ash regulation to the N.C. General Assembly. The bill includes $1.4 million to establish 19 additional positions at the N.C. Dept. of Environmental and Natural Resources.
  • May 19: N.C. Court of Appeals denied Duke's April request (Petition for Writ of Supersedeas) to stay a Judge Ridgeway's ruling that state law requires the utility to stop groundwater leaks from its 33 active and retired N.C. coal ash ponds until the court can hear Duke's appeal.
  • May 22: U.S. EPA and Duke Energy signed a formal agreement requiring the power company to clean up the Dan River spill, put the waste in a lined landfill and reimburse the federal government for its supervision of the process.
  • May 22-23: EPA released data showing diminishing percentages of coal ash near the retired Dan River Steam Station and increasing levels near the downstream community of Danville, Va.
  • May 27: House Bill 1226 proposes regulations including rules that would require all storage ponds to stop taking new ash by summer (2014) and prohibit public utilities from passing on the cost of pollution cleanup to customers.
  • June 9: Environmental and wildlife officials in NC and Virginia signed an agreement with Duke Energy for the cleanup of the Feb. 2 spill. The agreement requires Duke to pay any "reasonable" cost associated with the spill and for ongoing monitoring by government agencies.
  • June 10: The Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) issued a report stating that Duke Energy needs no price hike to offset cleanup costs at other coal ash ponds.
  • June 16: NC Senate Republicans introduce legislation that builds on but goes beyond what Gov. Pat McCrory recommended earlier this spring. The highest risk ponds would have to close by 2019.
  • June 17: Documents summoned by a grand jury show Duke Energy had warnings from N.C. Utilities Commission engineers from 1986 and in 1992 that highlighted potential problems with a drainage pipe under the coal ash pond. Duke Energy declined to say whether it ever conducted the "water-in, water-out" tests recommended by the engineers.
  • June 23: NC Senate gave its approval for coal ash regulation. Senate Republicans rebuffed Senate Democrats' efforts to add more storage ponds to list of places where coal ash must be removed by 2019, and also defeated Democrats' efforts to make sure Duke's customers would not shoulder the cost of closing the ponds.
  • June 25: Coal ash legislation cleared the NC Senate. Changes to bill include changing the date that coal ash ponds must be closed to 2029 from 2019. The bill will now go to the NC House.
  • June 26: After reviewing video from 33 coal ash ponds around the state, DENR officials say that they found multiple problems at the Dan River Steam Station, including a leak in the secondary coal ash pond.
  • July 3: NC House finishes bill to close the state's 33 ash ponds by 2029; bill returns to the Senate.
  • July 16: Federal and state agencies call a temporary halt to coal ash removal efforts. Efforts were suspended after removing about 3,000 tons of mixed ash and sediment from three, sandbar-like deposits along the Dan River and from water reatment plants in two downstream Virginia cities, Danville and South Boston.
  • July 17: The Southern Environmental Law Center objected to Duke Energy's claim that the cleanup of the Dan River was completed, saying that Duke had "not accounted for 94% of the coal ash waste that was spilled into the Dan River."
  • July 22: Public Health officials lift advisory for recreational use of the Dan River. Environmental groups say that coal ash still threatens public health.
  • Aug. 1: NC General Assembly end the session without passing coal ash regulation.
  • Aug. 7: Duke Energy reported to federal authorities that it spent $20 million responding to the spill in the first five months after the incident.
  • Aug. 13: NCDENR told Duke Energy to submit plans for cleaning up coal ash ponds at four "high priority" coal plants by Nov. 15.
  • Aug. 19: General Assembly leaders agreed on a compromise bill about the coal ash clean-up.
  • Aug. 20: General Assembly passed the bill and sent it to Gov. McCrory to sign. The bill does not require that Duke remove ash sites but requires all leaks be stopped. The bill also overturned the March ruling by Judge Ridgeway that had required Duke to immediately stop leaks at all coal ash ponds in the state. This bill does not address who will pay for the coal ash cleanup. Duke says that customers should pay.
  • Sept. 3: Four conservation groups sued Duke Energy for allegedly violating the federal Clean Water Act with pollution from coal ash ponds. The environmental groups claim that DENR has shirked its responsibilities.
  • Aug. 28: DENR authorized Duke to remove water from ash ponds at 14 sites into nearby streams and lakes.
  • Sept. 9: Gov. Pat McCrory refused to sign the bill passed by the legislature on Aug. 20., stating the major reason for not signing is the creation of a coal ash oversight commission.
  • Sept. 16: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency administrator Mark Nuhfer wrote a letter to DENR objecting to the DENR authorization of Aug. 28. DENR retracted its authorization.
  • Sept. 24: Duke Energy announced the creation of a $10 million Water Resources Fund for projects benefiting waterways in the Carolinas and for waterways downstream from Duke Energy plants that flow into Virginia, Tennessee and Georgia. The fund includes $1.5 million for projects in the Dan River Basin Region.
  • Oct. 9:Duke Energy identified 830 drinking-water wells within roughly a half-mile of its 32 coal ash basins statewide.
  • Nov. 5, 2014: Duke Energy said that it would cost $3.4 billion to comply with North Carolina's new coal-ash law. The law requires that Duke close all 32 ash basins at 14 sites (see below list of sites) in North Carolina.
  • Nov. 6: The N.C. Division of Water Quality gave Duke Energy 30 days to improve its plan to monitor the groundwater contamination near its coal ash ponds.
  • Nov. 13: Duke Energy unveiled plans to start moving coal ash from the retired Dan River Steam Station by rail and burying it at a lined landfill in Virginia. Gov. Pat McCrory and former governors, Jim Hunt and Jim Martin sued top legislators over the makeup of the states's new Coal Ash Management Commission, saying that the board's composition violates NC's constitutional separation of powers by granting the legislature control of an environmental enforcement activity that resides with the executive branch. The new board will oversee the cleanup.
  • Dec. 4, 2014: Wake Forest University biology researcher, Dennis Lemly released study that puts price of $295.5 million (and counting) for the damage of the spill.
  • Dec.7, 2014: On a CBS, "60 Minutes" report, Gov. McCrory said that Duke's record on coal ash is "quite poor" and admitted that the $99,000 fine for pollution at stream stations near Asheville and Charlotte was a low fine. Duke CEO, Lynn Good said that Duke needed more time to study how best to clean up their coal ash deposits around the state.
  • Dec. 19, 2014: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency disclosed its first-ever nationwide coal ash rules. It disappointed many environmental groups because it defined coal ash as garbage, not hazardous material.
  • Jan. 2015: Documents that were subpoena in summer of 2014 by a federal grand jury looking into possible criminal charges show that an engineering report told Duke Energy to use robotic TV cameras to inspect the line for leakage if any turbidity occurred.
  • Feb 2015: One year after the spill, Duke Energy CEO, Lynn Good said that Duke created a separate division of the company focused only on ash management.
  • Feb 18, 2015: Duke announced a pending $102 million settlement in the U.S. government's grand jury investigation into the coal ash spill. The company reported a net income of $1.9 billion for 2014, down from $2.7 billion for 2013.
  • Feb. 20, 2015: Duke Energy agreed to pay $102 million fine to settle misdemeanor charges regarding the spill. In addition, the U.S. government also charged Duke Energy with violations at the Cape Fear Steam Electric Plant, the Asheville Steam Electric Generating Plant, H.F. Lee Steam Electric Plant and the Riverbend Steam Station.
  • Mar. 3, 2015: Karen Popp, an attorney from Elkin, NC, joined Duke Energy's legal team dealing with criminal charges from the spill.
  • Mar. 5, 2014: Federal court officials announced that the first pretrial hearing on criminal charges linked to Duke Energy;s Dan River spill will begin Wed. Mar.11. before Senior U.S. District Judge Malcolm J. Howard.
  • Mar. 10, 2015: NC DENR fined Duke Energy $25.1 million forcoal ash pollution at a retired coal-fired plant near Wilmington.
  • Mar. 24, 2015:Paul Newton, Duke's state president for North Carolina operations announced that Duke would appeal the DENR $25 million fine.
  • Mar. 2015: Duke Energy's proxy statement said that they were imposing incentive pay cuts to 5 top officers.
  • Apr. 2015: NC DENR officials announce that the cleanup of Duke Energy's ponds at Riverbend will begin in August.
  • Apr. 14, 2015: Duke Energy's lawyers requested a waiver from rules that bar corporations convicted of crimes from receiving or renewing federal contracts. Without the waiver, Duke officials said electrical service might be disrupted to Fort Bragg, Camp Lejeune, post offices, federal courthouses, prisons and other federal facilities.
  • Apr. 20, 2015: State officials advised families living near coal ash dumps not to drink or cook with water from their wells after tests showed contamination with toxic heavy metals.
  • Apr. 29, 2015: Duke Energy announced plans to build a coal ash landfill at the retired Dan River plant near Eden and on the grounds at the shuttered Sutton Plant in Wilmington.
  • May 7, 2015: Duke CEO Lynn Good was interrupted by demonstrators while speaking to shareholders in Charlotte.
  • May 14, 2015: U.S. District Judge Malcolm J. Howard imposed $102 million in fines and restitution after Duke Energy pleaded guilty to a pattern of negligence in handling coal ash, spanning 35 years.
  • May 21, 2015: Duke Energy began removing coal ash from retired Riverbend power plant near Mount Holly in Gaston County to a lined landfill.
  • June 9, 2015: NC State Department of Environment and Natural Resources issued Duke Energy a "notice of regulatory requirement" based on recent tests showing high levels of boron in three water-supply wells near the closed plant near Wilmington.
  • June 11, 2015: The NC Supreme Court overruled Superior Court Judge Paul Ridgeway's decision that Duke Energy must take immediate action to clean up groundwater pollution at its unlined ash pits. The NC Supreme Court agreed with Duke's attorneys that the issue was moot because the NC General Assembly passed a law requiring the company to cap or remove all its ash dumps by 2029 and close four high priority sites by 2019.
  • June 16, 2015: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued a 149-page draft proposal describing the various ways that wildlife , the river and other parts of the environment might have been damaged by the Feb. 2014 spill.
  • Aug. 5, 2015: Duke Energy tried to thwart a federal lawsuit aimed at forcing the company to stop its coal ash pond at the retired Buck Steam Station in Salisbury from polluting the Yadkin River, High Rock Lake and possibly, residential well water. Their lawyers asked a federal judge to either dismiss or delay the lawsuit.
  • Sep. 29, 2015: Duke Energy and N.C. Department of Environmental Quality reached a $7 million agreement to settle groundwater contamination claims at 14 current and former coal plants.
  • Oct. 13, 2015: Environmental groups challenge the $7 million agreement.
  • Jan. 2016: Public record search by WRAL show that Gov. McCrory, his top environmental regulator, his chief of staff and his general counsel, as well as Duke Chief Executive Lynn Good, Duke's general counsel and the president of the company's North Carolina operations met on June 1, 2015 for a private dinner at the Executive mansion.
  • Jan 14. 2016: U.S. District Judge Malcolm Howard approved plans to comply with a plea bargain made in May, 2015.
  • Fe. 9, 2016: North Carolina environmental regulators announced Duke Energy would be fined $6.6 million for environmental violations that Duke admitted when it pleaded guilty to federal pollution crimes last year.
  • Mar. 9, 2016:Duke Energy filed an appeal of the $6.6 million fine that state environmental officials levied last month for the Dan River coal ash spill.
  • Oct. 30, 2016: Duke energy contractors imploded the retired Dan River Steam Station and three boilers.
  • Oct. 31, 2016: The remaining piece of large equipment - the old plant's precipitator, was removed.

Compiled by Diane Lamb, News Researcher
Sources: News & Record Archive; The Associated Press, Winston-Salem Journal; Triad Business Journal; WRAL

The following are the by-products left after coal is burned. The ashes were stored in pits beside the decommissioned Duke Energy Dan River Steam Station in Eden along the bank of the Dan River. Duke Energy has 13 coal ash ponds where they have stored coal ash for decades.

Coal Combustion Products (CCPs) are the materials produced primarily for the combustion of coal in coal-fired power plants.
· Fly Ash – very fine powdery material is a product of burning finely ground coal. Materials that use fly ash:
§ Raw material in concrete products and grout
§ Feed stock in the production of cement
§ Fill material for structural applications and embankments
§ Ingredient in soil and waste stabilization and/or solidification
§ Component in road basses, sub-bases and pavement
§ Mineral filler in asphalt
· Bottom Ash – Agglomerated ash particles that are too large to be carried in the flue gasses and fall through open grates to an ash hopper at the bottom of the furnace. Materials that use bottom ash:
§ Filler material for structural applications and embankments
§ Aggregate in road bases, sub-bases, and pavement
§ Feed stock in the production of cement
§ Aggregate in lightweight concrete products
§ Snow and ice traction control material
· Boiler Slag – Molten bottom ash collects at the base of slag trap and cyclone type furnaces that are quenched with water. When water and boiler slag make contact the slag fractures, crystallizes and forms pellets and has a smooth glassy appearance. Uses for this material:
§ Component of blasting grit and roofing granules
§ Mineral filler in asphalt
§ Fill material for structural applications and embankments
§ Raw material in concrete products
§ Snow and ice traction control material
· Flue Gas Desulfurization Material (FGD) – A product of the process used for reducing SO2 emissions for the exhaust gas system of a coal-fired boiler. This material varies from a wet sludge to a dry powdered material, depending on the process. Uses include:
§ Raw material for wallboard
§ Fill material in concrete products and grout
§ Ingredient in waste stabilization and/or solidification

Source: Environmental Protection Agency

· 1.1 billion gallon / 5.3 million-cubic yards- spill, Dec. 2008 at Kingston , Tenn, near Knoxville.
· 130 million tons of coal ash waste produced each year.
· 1,300 coal ash ponds in the U.S.
· EPA determined coal ash has contaminated water in 24 states.
· An EPA survey estimates that refineries emitted more than 40 million pounds of air pollutants in 2010 – three times what the industry reported.
Sources: EPA, NPR, Nexis.com news sources
1. Allen Steam Stations (Belmont) - Active
2. Asheville Plant (Asheville) - Active
3. Belews Creek Steam Station ( Belews Creek) - Active
4. Buck Steam Station (Salisbury) - Retired
5. Cape Fear Plant (Moncure) - Retired
6. Cliffside Steam Station (Mooresboro) - Active
7. Dan River Steam Station (Eden) - Retired
8. H.F. Lee Plant (Goldsboro) - Retired
9. Marshall Steam Station (Terrell) - Active
10. Mayo Plant (Roxboro) - Active
11. Riverbend Steam Station (Mount Holly) - Retired
12. Roxboro Steam Plant (Semora) - Active
13. Sutton Plant (Wilmington) - Retired
14. W.H. Weatherspoon Plant (Lumberton) - Retired
Source: Duke Energy

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