Dan River Coal Ash Problems Not Over, Experts Say
More than three months after regulators were told that a coal ash containment pond in North Carolina had failed and was dumping toxic sludge into the nearby Dan River, environmental experts are taking a hard look at what's left in the water. What they have found may not bode well for the long-range health of the area's ecosystem.
Duke Energy, the utility company that owns the pond system that failed, has been vacuuming up large deposits of coal ash that has settled in and on along the sides of the river. But experts say that they aren't finding as many deposits as they would have hoped, which means one of two things: The heavy metals and other toxins have either been washed down stream, or they are now becoming covered over by riverbed silt.
Coal ash impacts on the Dan River ecosystem
Both possibilities can pose problems for marine life, said Dennis Lemly, a U.S. Forest Service scientist who also teaches biology at Wake Forest University. Migrating coal ash means more exposure of marine life to toxic metals — including North Carolina's prime fishing stocks, he explained in an interview with the North Carolina News & Record.
In this case, the destination is a body of water called the Kerr Reservoir, some 70 miles downstream, which is populated with walleye, catfish, crappy and three types of bass. Many spawn along the river or in the reservoir, and are prime attraction for sports fishing enthusiasts.
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River image via Shutterstock.