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Ash deposits turn up downstream from spill / February 19, 2014

Coal ash deposits have turned up as far away as 70 miles downstream from the site of the Feb. 2 coal ash spill on the Dan River, raising concerns about the impact of the disaster on aquatic life in Kerr Reservoir (Buggs Island Lake).

Layers of toxic ash up to 5 inches deep have been detected in the Dan River basin in Virginia and North Carolina, while other deposits of less than 1 inch have been found downstream in Kerr. The existence of the deposits was disclosed in an advisory Tuesday by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Federal officials expressed concern about the potential long-term impact of the spill on fish, mussels and other aquatic life in the river basin, especially small invertebrates that live in sediments and comprise a key part of the aquatic habitat.

The coal ash is burying riverbed animals and clams, worms and crustaceans that make up the food chain for fish, birds and other animals along the river, officials say, and they further fear that coal wastes may clog gill tissues in fish and mussels. Federal wildlife scientists are investigating reports of dead aquatic turtles at two Virginia state parks on the river basin, although the reports have not been confirmed, nor has a connection been made to the disaster.

The coal ashes escaped Feb. 2 from a collapsed waste lagoon at the Dan River Steam Station in Eden, N.C., where an estimated 82,000 tons of coal ash spilled out into the river through a drain pipe. The Dan flows into Kerr Lake at its confluence with the Staunton River near Staunton River State Park.

Officials this week also reiterated warnings not to eat fish from the Dan and downstream waterways. Prior to the coal ash spill, the Dan and Kerr Lake were subject to advisories warning people not to consume more than two fish per year from the waterways, due to mercury and PCB contamination in fish tissue.

Government officials continued to assure area residents that drinking water drawn from the Dan River and Kerr Reservoir is safe. While raw water samples have turned up concentrations of some heavy metals such as iron, aluminum and copper that exceed federal clean water standards, testing of treated tap water has shown that municipal systems are successful in filtering out the contaminants. Kerr Reservoir is the public water source for the Roanoke River Service Authority serving Mecklenburg and Brunswick counties, and for the Town of Clarksville, which maintains its own water system.

EPA officials visit South Boston Thursday to meet with public

EPA officials will provide an update on the response to the Duke Energy coal ash spill into the Dan River in Eden, N.C.

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Listen to the authorities. They are never wrong and would never cover anything up.

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