Coal ash washed out of basin at power plant on Neuse River, Duke Energy says

Duke Energy confirmed Friday that material including coal ash eroded and was washed outside the berm of an unused ash basin at its H.F. Lee power plant on the flooded Neuse River near Goldsboro.

Results of water samples taken downstream of three unused basins that have been covered by river water “do not show the presence of measurable ash-related constituents in the Neuse River,” Duke said.

Duke said its engineers will better be able to assess the amount of material that washed out as river levels recede.

Duke had earlier reported erosion inside one of the three unused basins and possible ash on the berm, the state Department of Environmental Quality has said. State water quality and dam safety officials will investigate Saturday, he said.

There is no indication the structure will fail, DEQ said. The collapse of a stormwater pipe under an ash pond at Duke’s Dan River power plant dumped up to 39,000 tons of ash into the river in 2014.

The unused basins at Lee are normally dry and covered in trees. The rising Neuse has flowed across them since the heavy rainfall from Hurricane Matthew washed across the state a week ago.

The unused basins and one ash pond still in use contained 5.9 million tons of ash as of last December. Pete Harrison of the advocacy group Waterkeeper Alliance said the three unused basins contain a total of about 1 million tons of ash.

Flyovers of the plant this week have shown no evidence of a coal ash spill, Harrison said. “We are concerned that as the river level recedes, that’s when structural problems can occur,” he added.

Earlier this week, Duke reported a 50- to 60-foot crack in an earthen wall around a cooling water pond at H.F. Lee.

The ash at Lee will be excavated by 2028.

Bruce Henderson: 704-358-5051, @bhender