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Dan River Dredging Finished, Less Than 10 Percent Of Ash Removed

Appalachian Voices

Duke Energy announced it has finished actively cleaning coal ash from the Dan River, a little less than six months after a massive spill turned the water gray. The bulk of the ash will remain in the river.

Between 30,000 and 40,000 tons of ash, containing heavy metals including arsenic and lead, spilled into the river in February. It flowed down the Dan River, collecting in pockets on its banks and bottom.

Duke has dredged three main areas—next to the spill site, from the water treatment plants of cities downriver, and, the largest, near a dam outside the city of Danville.

“We’ve dredged in total about 3,000 tons of coal ash and sediment,” says Duke spokesman Jeff Brooks.

Brooks says Duke does not calculate what percent of the dredged material is sediment. But, the total amount dredged will equal less than ten percent of the amount spilled. And, Duke has no more scheduled dredging. Brooks says the natural movement and sheer size of the river has diluted concentrations of the ash.

“In most areas we’re not detecting any coal ash deposits. In others the deposits are extremely small. The water quality remains good,” he says. “So we have to look at the impact of going in there and disrupting that and potentially creating more hazards by doing that.”

That tracks with statements the EPA official overseeing the process made in May. Duke entered into an agreement with the agency that month to pay for all costs of the clean-up.

Duke, as well as the federal and state regulators, will continue to monitor the river, and the company could be required to conduct further clean-up if the water quality deteriorates.