By Jennifer Peters, National Water Campaigns Coordinator
Nearly 72-hours after a stormwater pipe buried beneath a 27-acre unlined coal ash pond burst, wastewater from the pond is still spilling into the Dan River near the town of Eden, North Carolina. Duke Energy, the pond operator, estimates that between 50,000 to 82,000 tons of coal ash has contaminated the Dan River – a volume of ash that would fill between 20 and 32 Olympic-size swimming pools. The company estimates that an additional 24-27 million gallons of coal ash wastewater has poured into the river.
Coal ash is the waste left behind from burning coal and it contains arsenic, lead, mercury, boron, cadmium, selenium, nutrients and other harmful chemicals. Heavy metals like mercury are highly soluble in water, and wastewater from ash ponds pose an especially big threat to aquatic life because these dissolved heavy metals can persist in the environment for a very long time. Heavy metals like mercury also concentrate up the food chain, which is why so many water bodies across the country have fish consumption advisories. Read more.