Duke Energy is leaving over 36,000 tons of toxic coal ash in the Dan River after claiming to have satisfied a court order to remove the waste from its February spill. Now, several months and 3,000 tons later, Duke Energy has dusted off its hands, claiming mission accomplished and a job well done.
The remaining amount of coal ash remains along a 70-mile stretch along the Dan River’s bottom after Duke Energy hired a contractor to dredge only large, clustered deposits of coal ash. River regulators say that any attempt to dredge the river bottom containing the residual coal ash will upset the contaminants and cause more harm.
This argument has stirred up some contention between the regulators and advocates who think that work should continue until all of the coal ash is removed from the river. Advocates argue that despite the coal ash being currently “undisturbed,” coal ash contains some of the deadliest toxins known to man including arsenic, mercury, lead, and chromium.
“They just seem to be sort of walking away from the job,” said Pete Harrison, attorney with the Waterkeeper Alliance. “To say it’s premature is an understatement.”
The regulators miss the mark when asserting that it will take something like dredging to disturb the settled coal ash. Researchers familiar with the coal ash spill say that warm weather can cause the river’s oxygen levels to drop, releasing the dangerous metals contained in the coal ash into the water.
Duke Energy’s premature departure from the cleanup efforts are indicative of their laziness and disregard for the environment.
Josh is a writer and researcher with Ring of Fire. Follow him on Twitter @dnJdeli.