Duke Energy, EPA plan to clean coal ash spill site

Earlier this year, this blog featured a post about a coal ash spill that occurred at North Carolina's Dan River. A retired coal ash plant owned by Duke Energy sprung a leak on February 2 that allowed about 38,000 tons of coal ash and 24 million gallons of contaminated water to seep into the river. The pollution traveled down the river and extended into Virginia.

According to a recent article on Power Magazine, Duke Energy has since reached an agreement with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regarding plans for cleanup. This will require several steps, which will be overseen by the EPA and funded by Duke.

Working with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the EPA will conduct an assessment of the coal ash deposits and remove them when necessary.

"This agreement represents a significant milestone in Duke Energy's ongoing efforts to restore and monitor the Dan River and surrounding environment," the company said in a statement announcing the agreement. "Duke Energy is fully committed to the river's long-term health and well-being. River water quality has returned to normal and drinking water has remained safe." 

This will be expensive ordeal for Duke. It is estimated that the spill itself could cost the company as much as $10 billion in a worst-case scenario in which Duke must convert to all-dry ash handling systems and cap the remaining coal ash plant sites in North Carolina. In addition, the spill could lead to the retirement of 932 megawatts worth of coal generation.

It is therefore in Duke's best interests to secure their coal properties and work with an environmental consultant to ensure that a spill of this magnitude does not happen again.