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New leak found at Dan River coal plant / March 10, 2014

Danville Register & Bee
Reprinted with permission

A storm water pipe at Duke Energy’s old Dan River Steam Station — upstream from the site of last month’s coal ash spill — is draining water containing excessively high levels of arsenic, lead and other toxins into the Dan River.

However, samples of water taken just 20 feet from the storm water drain pipe show levels within state surface water quality standard levels, except for those for aluminum and iron, said Kevin Eichinger, on-scene coordinator with the U.S. EPA.

Water quality samples taken from the Dan River upstream of last month’s coal ash spill show iron and aluminum exceeding water quality standards, according to the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

The latest results were taken from water samples collected in the Dan River near the storm water outfall discharging over orange-colored rocks upstream of the coal ash spill, the department stated in a news release Friday.

The samples showed aluminum exceeded state surface water quality standards Feb. 26 and 27, while iron exceeded those standards on Feb. 26, but not Feb. 27. Levels of other metals in the collected samples at the same upstream location were within state surface water standards both days, according to the department.

The orange staining was from iron bacteria growing on the rocks by the high iron content of the discharge, said Dianne Reid, chief of the state’s Water Sciences Section, in the news release.

Most of the state’s samples have been collected downstream of the spill site, where it would be more likely to see impacts from the coal ash spill, said Tom Reeder, director of the N.C. Division of Water Resources, in the news release. Division staff decided to collect samples at this location after citizens reported the discharge over the orange-colored rocks.

“What we’re seeing is that this discharge is not causing a violation of state water quality standards for arsenic or other constituents that are key ingredients to coal ash,” Reeder said.

State officials also collected water samples directly from the storm water discharge before it reached the Dan River, according to the news release. The test results from samples collected Feb. 14 and Feb. 17 show elevated concentrations of aluminum, arsenic and iron. Results from Feb. 14 showed elevated zinc, as well. Test results from water collected coming directly from the discharge Feb. 26-27 showed elevated arsenic and iron.

“What we’re seeing is that once the discharge is diluted by the river water, it’s within state surface water standards,” Reeder said. “Federal discharge permits include dilution as a factor in determining acceptable discharge levels.”

Jamie Kritzer, public information officer with the NCDENR, said the state determines whether surface water is compliant after the drain water is in the river.

Susan Massengale, spokeswoman with NCDENR’s office of public affairs, said it’s too early to tell whether Duke would be penalized for the high aluminum and iron levels.

Crane reports for the Danville Register & Bee.

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