Duke Energy ready to pump some ash from Dan River

Crews prepared Monday to start pumping a pocket of coal ash out of the Dan River, a week after Duke Energy’s spill there.

Workers over the weekend capped the stormwater pipe that broke Feb. 2, dumping tons of ash into the river. Duke said it’s still not clear why the pipe broke.

On Monday, crews installed trench boxes, which allows them to excavate safely around the broken pipe, spokeswoman Paige Sheehan said. They will pump concrete grout into the length of the pipe.

The 250 cubic yards of ash to be pumped out of the river, just below the pipe, are in an area about 25 feet wide and 75 feet long. The deposit is about 1 percent of the 50,000 to 82,000 tons of ash spilled, the Environmental Protection Agency says.

Duke’s contractors will use a vacuum truck and hoses to pump out the ash, which is in an area where the river banks are steep and the flow of water fast, Sheehan said. The plan will let Duke test ash removal techniques that may be used in the larger cleanup, Sheehan said.

“It helps them figure out how feasible that is,” she said. “It doesn’t mean we will do this up and down the river.”

Duke continues to consult with outside experts, including the EPA and wildlife agencies, on how to conduct the larger cleanup of the river. Duke doesn’t have have an estimate of how long the cleanup will take, Sheehan said.

The EPA will hold a community briefing Tuesday night in Danville, Va., which has the first water intake downstream of the spill.