Duke stops leaking ash-pond pipe

Duke Energy has finally stopped its coal ash pond in Eden from leaking into the Dan River, five days after a broken stormwater pipe dumped tons of ash.

Water from the 48-inch pipe is being captured and recirculated with pumps back into the 27-acre pond, Duke spokesman Jeff Brooks said Friday.

“Today we’re still executing multiple paths to completely block the flow, on the river side and plant side” of the pipe, he said. Duke has said the pipe couldn’t be plugged because repair crews needed access to its interior.

Duke’s North Carolina president, Paul Newton, publicly apologized for the release late Friday afternoon.

“We apologize and will use all available resources to take care of the river,” Newton said in a statement. “We will do the right thing for the river and surrounding communities. We are accountable.”

Newton met Friday with local officials and residents in Eden and Danville, Va., which has the closest water intake downstream of the spill.

Water samples showed copper, iron, aluminum and arsenic above state surface-water standards downstream of the spill, the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources reported Friday.

The advocacy group Appalachian Voices said its own water samples had excessive levels of arsenic, aluminum, iron, manganese and lead. The group said differing results from Duke, the state and environmental groups reflect different test procedures and sampling locations.

“The testing results so far indicate that downstream drinking water supplies are safe, but there are likely to be major ecological impacts from this spill,” Appalachian Voices predicted. Some potentially harmful substances haven’t been tested for, it said.

Gov. Pat McCrory, who visited Duke’s retired Dan River power plant on Thursday, told Duke to use “all needed measures” to stop the flow. N.C. Senate leader Phil Berger, who lives in Eden, called for a legislative inquiry into the ash release and last month’s 3.5-million-gallon sewage spill on the Haw River.

The Dan River spill, from a broken pipe under the ash pond, dumped 50,000 to 82,000 tons of ash into the river along with up to 27 million gallons of water from the pond.

The Environmental Protection Agency said it is likely to be the nation’s third-largest ash spill.

Duke CEO Lynn Good called Danville Mayor Sherman Saunders on Thursday to apologize for the spill, the city said.

Related stories from Charlotte Observer