Pulling the Plug on Coal Ash Draining

EPA Pulls the Plug on Coal Ash Water Draining
October 6, 2014

The EPA recently halted a plan that would allow Duke Energy to flush water from its coal ash ponds into nearby rivers and lakes. The plan had previously received approval from the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR).

Water naturally overflows from coal ash ponds during periods of heavy rainfall, and that water contains a very small concentration of pollutants. Ash pond surface water is similarly low in heavy metals.

But EPA administrator Mark Nuhfer said the DENR decision did not account for the possibly more polluted water deeper in the ash ponds and that the volume of water discharged from Duke Energy’s 14 ash ponds may carry enough heavy metals to harm water quality.

DENR revoked Duke Energy’s draining permit upon receiving the EPA’s concerns.

For more information on how coal ash can affect rivers and lakes, read this article from QUEST North Carolina, and watch this video from UNC-TV's Frank Graff to learn how structural engineers can recycle coal ash into building material.

-Daniel Lane

Daniel Lane covers science, engineering, medicine and the environment in North Carolina.