EPA Says Duke Energy Finished Cleaning Toxic Coal Ash Spill. But Did They?

This post was written by Brandon Baker and originally appeared on EcoWatch.

Less than two months after it was instructed to clean its coal-ash mess from North Carolina’s Dan River, Duke Energy has completed the job.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Duke both announced the cleanup’s completion this week. In February, Duke reported that it spilled 50,000 to 82,000 tons of coal ash into the river near Eden, NC. Based on those numbers, the spill was the equivalent of 413 to 677 rail cars of wet coal ash being poured into a public drinking water source. However, the company has since decreased its estimate down to 39,000 tons.

Duke only dredged about 2,500 tons of coal ash that had been found against a dam in Danville, VA, the Associated Press reported. Though the company only recovered a small portion of its spill, a coordinator said recent testing showed that concentrations of toxic metals were below federal limits and comparable to pre-spill levels.

“We continue to do some monitoring and will base our decisions for actions on the data collected,” the EPA’s on-scene coordinator Myles Bartos Bartos said. ”But I don’t think there will ever be a removal again in the river. I think it has been adequately removed.”

Duke making its own announcement didn’t sit well with Waterkeeper Alliance, especially an attorney who has reason to believe the announcement came far too soon.

“This arrogant announcement from Duke Energy is the ultimate insult to the people North Carolina and Virginia whose river has been devastated by the company’s toxic ash spill,” Waterkeeper Alliance attorney Pete Harrison—who conducted testing on the Dan River after the announcement—said in a statement.

“Worse yet, Duke doesn’t even acknowledge the fact that there’s still a public health advisory declaring that the river is not safe to fish and swim in. Duke’s celebratory announcement that it ‘completed’ the clean-up threatens to mislead the public into think the danger has passed.”

Coal ash, which contains arsenic, mercury and more, made its way into the river after a pipe collapsed at a waste dump, turning the river gray for about 70 miles.

As a result of the spill, the EPA decided the company had to:

  • Perform a comprehensive assessment
  • Determine the location of coal ash deposits
  • Remove deposits along the Dan River as deemed appropriate by EPA, in consultation with the US Fish and Wildlife Service

“Protection of public health and safety remains a primary concern, along with the long-term ecological health of the Dan River,” EPA Regional Administrator Heather McTeer Toney said before the cleanup.


Photo Credit: Thinkstock

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Patricia Guilhem
Patricia Guilhemabout a year ago

Presque nettoyé......oui, presque. Pourquoi je ne suis pas étonnée ? Le poison est partout sur la Terre.

Susan S.
Susan S.about a year ago

Don't you know that at least 5 people have to die and it be proven that the spill was the cause before anything gets done.
I guess the people of NC and VA get to decide just WHO gets the privilege of dying for the cause.

P.S. Oh ! another disclaimer. Where have I been?

John Dierig
John Dierigabout a year ago

Someone check Bartos' financials. Only bribery, extortion, and political donations will lead to such a vulgar conclusion. The EPA is suppose to work for all of us, not some monstrosity mega-profit corporation. Duke has gotten to big and is now dictating its own regulations.

Gayle J.
Gayle J.about a year ago

The EPA is in bed with the dirty energy industry so of course, they will say they've done a thorough job of cleaning up the toxic disaster. I guess rivers are just for looks since the public advisory says not to swim or drink the water. Thanks, EPA!

Jane R.
Jane R.about a year ago

There is a cover-up going on. It takes years to do a valid job.

Janet B.
Janet B.about a year ago


John chapman
John chapmanabout a year ago

Maybe Duke should make their statment on an aircraft carrier.

In front of a banner thet reads, "MIssion Accomplished".

Spencer Young
Spencer Youngabout a year ago

Oversights, oversights, oversights! We learned we can't trust the EPA, unless we trust them to lie and screw up

Heidi Wood
Heidi Woodabout a year ago

BP, Valdez, Duke energy all say it was cleaned up. NO it will not be cleaned it will more then a life time for the earth to heal.

Kamia T.
Kamia T.about a year ago

Ask any local resident affected by the original spill and want to bet they'll categorically tell you that it's NOT cleaned up? Gosh I wish the EPA were filled with people with backbones that actually forced big companies to do what's right. But that's hallucinating, I guess.