Coal Ash Continues to Spill Into River, Where Is Duke Energy?

Waterkeeper Alliance and Sound Rivers have discovered a large coal ash spill into the Neuse River from the Duke Energy H.F. Lee facility, 10 miles upstream of Goldsboro, North Carolina. A substantial but undetermined amount of coal ash was found floating on the surface of the river in a layer over one inch thick. See the video below:

The spill came from at least one of three inactive coal ash ponds containing more than 1 million tons of exposed coal ash. The ponds had been submerged by Hurricane Matthew flood waters for more than seven days until flood waters receded over the weekend. Fly ash coated tree branches as much as seven feet above the river surface, indicating the spill began no later than last Tuesday, when the water level reached a record flood stage.

Waterkeeper Alliance and Sound Rivers discovered a large quantity coal ash spill into the Neuse River from the Duke Energy H.F. Lee facility, 10 miles upstream of Goldsboro. Pete Harrison / Waterkeeper Alliance

Independent microscopic analysis confirmed the white material is fly ash particles known as cenospheres, a waste product of coal combustion.

Upper Neuse Riverkeeper Matthew Starr, said:

"This spill is easily visible to anyone in a boat. The area looks like a winter wonderland of toxic coal ash as it has coated the water and trees. It is hard for me to understand how both Duke Energy and state regulators failed to notice such a large area of coal ash contaminating the Neuse River when they claim to have inspected these very ash ponds on Saturday."

On Oct. 15, Duke Energy issued a press release stating:

"Site inspections at the H.F. Lee Power Plant in Goldsboro, N.C., today confirm there was only very minor erosion of material from an inactive coal ash basin on the site.

The majority of that material, which includes coal ash, remained very close to the inactive basin, on the berm or a few feet away on the basin roadway. The state team that inspected the facility determined that the amount of material that was displaced would not even fill the bed of an average pickup truck."

"When a raging river floods over 1 million tons of coal ash, you're obviously going to get more than a pickup truck's worth of ash polluting the river," said Waterkeeper Alliance staff attorney Pete Harrison.

"It was very troubling to discover such a large amount of ash in the river, especially knowing that untold amounts of ash have been washing out of these ponds for more than a week now. It's baffling how Duke Energy could be so oblivious to such an obvious spill and how state regulators continue to look the other way when it comes to Duke's coal ash problems."

An substantial but undetermined amount of coal ash was found floating on the surface of the Neuse river in a layer more than an inch thick.Pete Harrison / Waterkeeper Alliance & Matt Starr / Upper Neuse Riverkeeper / Sound Rivers

Four of five retired coal ash ponds at the H.F. Lee plant near Goldsboro, North Carolina were inundated for at least 7 days. The submerged ponds contain more than one million tons of coal ash, spread in a layer between four and ten feet thick across an area the size of 130 football fields. In a 2015 site assessment, Duke Energy reported high levels of toxic heavy metals in the flooded ponds, including arsenic, antimony and thallium.

Last week at the H.F. Lee facility, Duke Energy failed to identify a breach in a cooling pond dam the size of a school bus for as much as 24 hours before a local news helicopter spotted the collapsed dam and reported it to officials.

Show Comments ()

Skylines to Switch Off as Millions Connect to the Planet to Celebrate Earth Hour 2018

On Saturday, March 24 at 8:30 p.m. local time, skylines around the world will go dark as millions celebrate WWF's Earth Hour to spark global awareness and action on nature and the environment.

From the Eiffel Tower to the Empire State Building, and the Bird's Nest stadium to Burj Khalifa, thousands of landmarks will switch off their lights in solidarity for the planet, urging individuals, businesses and governments worldwide to move forward the conversations and solutions we need to build a healthy, sustainable future for all.

Keep reading... Show less
Save Ohio's Bobcat's is working to oppose a proposed trapping season for the recently-threatened feelines. Save Ohio's Bobcats

Concerned Ohioans Unite Against Bobcat Trapping Plan

Environmental activists, science educators and the Athens Ohio City Council are teaming up against a controversial new proposal by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources Division of Wildlife (ODNRDOW) to open a bobcat trapping season in the southeastern part of the state, The New Political reported Wednesday.

Keep reading... Show less
Industrial agribusiness is destroying our most precious natural resource—water. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services

From 'Sea to Shining Sea,' Industrial Ag Fouls America's Waterways

By Katherine Paul

A citizen-led group in Nebraska is fighting Costco's plan to build a huge chicken factory farm operation that residents in nearby cities say would pollute their drinking water.

Residents of Devils Lake, North Dakota, along with members of the Spirit Lake Nation Tribe are battling plans to build a hog CAFO in a neighboring community. They say the operation would pollute Devils Lake and area wetlands.

Keep reading... Show less
Plastic samples collected from the Great Pacific garbage patch. The Ocean Cleanup

Great Pacific Garbage Patch Is Now Twice the Size of Texas

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP) floating off the coast of California now measures 1.6 million square kilometers (about 1 million square miles), according to a startling new study. To put that into perspective, the clump of trash is about the size of three Frances, or twice the size of Texas.

Not only that, the analysis, published Thursday in the journal Scientific Reports, also revealed that the massive Pacific trash vortex contains up to 16 times more plastic than previous estimates—and could rapidly get worse.

Keep reading... Show less
Sulfide chimneys coated with iron-based microbial mat at Urashima Vent. Deep sea hydrothermal vents like these are targeted for mining. NOAA / Flickr

Deep Sea Mining Decisions: Approaching the Point of No Return

By Sebastian Losada

Over the last two weeks, the International Seabed Authority (ISA) has been in discussions in Jamaica. Its mission—to work towards the finalization of exploitation regulations, a so-called mining code, that will allow commercial deep sea mining operations to begin all around the world.

In the quest for minerals, deep seabed mining means to extend mining activities into the deep ocean. The coming two years are critical in the opening—or not—of this unnecessary new frontier of resource exploitation.

Keep reading... Show less

One Mom’s Campaign to Save the Swimmers

By Stacy Malkan

"I want grandkids one day, so sperm is important to me because I've got three young boys," said mom, author and social media genius Leah Segedie in a video introducing her "Save the Swimmers" campaign.

"This is where my youngest rolls his eyes at me and says, 'I know Mom. Avoiding plastics can help save my swimmers, oooh kay.' But to me this is no laughing matter. Over 25 years of studies have demonstrated that these little sperm are crying out for help."

Keep reading... Show less

Can Food-Focused Medicine Cure Food-Related Disease?

By Julie Wilson

So-called "modern" food, produced through industrialized, chemical-intensive farming practices, is causing a host of chronic, hard-to-diagnose and hard-to-treat health problems in children and adults, say Michelle Perro, MD and Vincanne Adams, PhD, authors of What's Making Our Children Sick?

Keep reading... Show less
Protest against Arctic oil at Statoil commissioned rig in Norway. Greenpeace

'Kayaktivists' Board Rig Set to Drill Arctic

Peaceful "kayaktivists" from Greenpeace Norway boarded a Statoil-contracted rig set to drill two Arctic wells this year.

Two people boarded the rig at the Skipavik yard on Norway's west coast Thursday morning and have requested a meeting with the rig's captain.

Keep reading... Show less


The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!