Critics Say State's New Coal Ash Classifications Don't Go Far Enough

Critics Say State's New Coal Ash Classifications Don't Go Far Enough

6:29pm Jan 05, 2016
photo credit: The Yadkin Riverkeeper - On Sunday, February 2, 2014, a Duke Energy coal ash pond located on the Dan River near Eden, N.C., began discharging into the Dan River. The spill is the 3rd largest coal ash spill in U.S. History.

The state recently issued a new classification system for coal ash ponds. It’s all part of how North Carolina is dealing with the aftermath of the Dan River coal ash spill in Rockingham County which dumped more than 39,000 tons of coal ash into the waterway nearly two years ago. 

WFDD's Keri Brown breaks down what some of the new recommendations mean and why some say it’s not enough.

What exactly are we talking about here? What does a coal ash dumpsite look like?

Picture a slurry pit. A lot of times the water is somewhat clear on top but beneath the surface is a toxic pool of sludge, which often contains things such as arsenic, lead, and selenium. Burning coal creates waste and these coal sites are  ponds where the coal ash is disposed.

So basically, the state is classifying the toxicity of these sites?

Yes,  the state is prioritizing for the closing and cleanup of these dump site. Basically, there’s really nothing new in regards to the four high-risk designation ponds. The state classified these along with new legislation two years ago. But what is new is the classification of the remaining ash basins, which are considered intermediate or low risk. That’s also been creating some controversy at the same time.

On why critics say these classifications don't go far enough: 

There are some environmental groups that feel more of them should be labeled high risk. A lot of the residents who live near these sites also want to see more testing with the wells and groundwater. Duke Energy submitted data that was used by the state in the classification process and the state did their own sampling. They want to see more testing and more of these sites moved to high risk.

Why should the average North Carolinian care so much about this list?

We’re coming up on the second anniversary of the massive coal ash spill we saw near Eden along the Dan River. One of the sites that is classified as high priority or high risk is that particular site. I’ve reported on this spill and I can tell you there are a lot of unknowns about coal ash. Scientists aren’t sure what the long-term impact is on the environment or human health. That’s creating a lot of concern for these folks. 

Follow Keri Brown on Twitter @kerib_news

 

 

 

Support your
public radio station