Swollen NC rivers swamp dumps, raising water pollution fears - News, Weather, Sports, Toledo, OH

Swollen NC rivers swamp dumps, raising water pollution fears

(Mike Spencer/The Star-News via AP). FILE - In this June 23, 2014 file photo, the dried-up bed of an inactive coal ash pond is seen at Duke Energy's Sutton plant in Wilmington, N.C. Duke Energy says heavy rains from Florence have caused a slope to coll... (Mike Spencer/The Star-News via AP). FILE - In this June 23, 2014 file photo, the dried-up bed of an inactive coal ash pond is seen at Duke Energy's Sutton plant in Wilmington, N.C. Duke Energy says heavy rains from Florence have caused a slope to coll...
(Matt Born/The Star-News via AP). A car drives through water caused by the rain from Florence, now a tropical storm on U.S. 74/76 in Leland, N.C., Saturday, Sept.15, 2018. The rain from Hurricane Florence was expected to continue through Sunday. (Matt Born/The Star-News via AP). A car drives through water caused by the rain from Florence, now a tropical storm on U.S. 74/76 in Leland, N.C., Saturday, Sept.15, 2018. The rain from Hurricane Florence was expected to continue through Sunday.

By MICHAEL BIESECKER
Associated Press

As rain from Florence continued to lash the Carolinas, the region's swollen rivers were beginning to swamp coal ash dumps and low-lying hog farms Sunday, raising pollution concerns.

Duke Energy said the collapse of a coal ash landfill at the L.V. Sutton Power Station near Wilmington, North Carolina, is an "on-going situation," with an unknown amount of potentially contaminated storm water flowing into a nearby lake. At a different power plant near Goldsboro, three old coal ash dumps capped with soil were inundated by the Neuse River.

An Associated Press photographer who flew over eastern North Carolina on Sunday saw several flooded hog farms along the Trent River. It wasn't immediately clear if any animals remained inside the long metal buildings ringed by dark water.

Such farms typically have large pits filled with hog urine and feces that can cause significant water contamination if breached or overtopped by floodwaters. State environmental regulators said Sunday they had not yet received any reports of spills.

An AP analysis of location data from hog waste disposal permits shows there are at least 45 active North Carolina farms located in 100-year and 500-year floodplains at risk of being inundated by nearby streams and rivers.

Federal forecasters predicted several rivers would crest at record or near-record levels by Monday, with high water potentially remaining for days. Officials with the N.C. Park Council, and industry trade group, said farmers had prepared for the storm by lowering water levels in their waste ponds and moving animals to higher ground.

At the Sutton plant, Duke spokeswoman Paige Sheehan said Sunday that a full assessment of how much ash escaped from the water-slogged landfill can't occur until the rain stops. She said there was no indication that contaminants from Sutton Lake had drained into the nearby Cape Fear River.

"We think the majority of the ash is settling out before it gets to the lake," Sheehan said. "We believe the chances are minimal that coal ash constituents will make it to the Cape Fear."

The company initially estimated Saturday that about 2,000 cubic yards (1,530 cubic meters) of ash were displaced at the landfill, enough to fill about 180 dump trucks. Sheehan said Sunday that estimate could be revised after further scrutiny.

The coal-fired Sutton plant was retired in 2013 and the company has been excavating millions of tons of ash from old waste pits and removing it to safer lined landfills constructed on the property. The gray ash left behind when coal is burned contains toxic heavy metals, including arsenic, lead and mercury.

State environmental regulators said they had been unable to inspect the site of the landfill collapse because of flooded roadways in and around Wilmington.

"There was a failure in the lined landfill" with material moving toward Sutton Lake, said Michael Regan, secretary of the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality. "And so it's imperative that we get our folks on the ground to do some water testing."

Duke's handling of coal ash waste has been under intense scrutiny since a drainage pipe collapsed under a waste pit at an old plant in Eden in 2014, triggering a massive spill that coated 70 miles (110 kilometers) of the Dan River in gray sludge.

In a subsequent settlement with federal regulators, Duke agreed to plead guilty to nine Clean Water Act violations and pay $102 million in fines and restitution for illegally discharging pollution from coal-ash dumps at five North Carolina power plants. The company is working to close all of its coal ash dumps by 2029.

Sheehan said Sunday that three inactive ash basins at the H.F. Lee Power Station near Goldsboro were under water. The old waste pits are capped with soil and vegetation to deter erosion.

During Hurricane Matthew in 2016, floodwaters eroded part of the cap, exposing a small amount of ash that may have flowed into the Neuse River. The Neuse is expected to crest at more than nine feet (3 meters) above flood stage Monday.

At the W. H. Weatherspoon Power Station near Lumberton, flooding from a nearby swamp was flowing into the plant's cooling pond. The Lumber River is expected to crest at more than 12 feet (3.3 meters) above flood stage late Sunday, putting floodwaters near the top of the earthen dike containing the plant's coal ash dump.

Environmentalists have warned for decades that Duke's coal ash ponds were vulnerable to severe storms and could pose a threat to drinking water supplies and public safety.

"Disposing of coal ash close to waterways is hazardous, and Duke Energy compounds the problem by leaving most of its ash in primitive unlined pits filled with water," said Frank Holleman, a senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center.

"In this instance, it appears that Duke Energy has not done enough to ensure that its new Wilmington landfill safely stores coal ash. After this storm, we hope that Duke Energy will commit itself to removing its ash from all its unlined waterfront pits and, if it refuses, that the state of North Carolina will require it to remove the ash from these unlined pits."

___

Associated Press data journalist Angeliki Kastanis in Los Angeles and writer Gary D. Robertson in Raleigh contributed.

___

Follow AP investigative reporter Michael Biesecker at http://twitter.com/mbieseck

Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • East Coast braces for Hurricane FlorenceHurricane FlorenceMore>>

  • The longest week: Carolinas worn out by Florence

    The longest week: Carolinas worn out by Florence

    Thursday, September 20 2018 12:29 AM EDT2018-09-20 04:29:52 GMT
    Thursday, September 20 2018 2:34 PM EDT2018-09-20 18:34:06 GMT
    (AP Photo/David Goldman). Part of the Starlite Motel is washed away in the aftermath of flooding from Hurricane Florence in Spring Lake, N.C., Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2018.(AP Photo/David Goldman). Part of the Starlite Motel is washed away in the aftermath of flooding from Hurricane Florence in Spring Lake, N.C., Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2018.

    Frustration and sheer exhaustion are building as thousands of people wait to go home seven days after the storm, which is blamed for at least 37 deaths, began battering the coast.

    More >>

    Frustration and sheer exhaustion are building as thousands of people wait to go home seven days after the storm, which is blamed for at least 37 deaths, began battering the coast.

    More >>
  • Florence shows how storm coverage is politicized

    Florence shows how storm coverage is politicized

    Wednesday, September 19 2018 6:29 PM EDT2018-09-19 22:29:46 GMT
    Thursday, September 20 2018 1:30 PM EDT2018-09-20 17:30:17 GMT
    Florence shows how politics has been drawn into coverage of major storms.More >>
    Florence shows how politics has been drawn into coverage of major storms.More >>
  • Women die in flooded van driven by South Carolina deputies

    Women die in flooded van driven by South Carolina deputies

    Thursday, September 20 2018 1:24 AM EDT2018-09-20 05:24:25 GMT
    Thursday, September 20 2018 12:03 PM EDT2018-09-20 16:03:11 GMT
    (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert). Responders congregate Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2018 near where two people drowned Tuesday evening when they were trapped in a Horry County Sheriff transport van while crossing an overtopped bridge over the Little Pee Dee River on...(AP Photo/Gerald Herbert). Responders congregate Wednesday, Sept. 19, 2018 near where two people drowned Tuesday evening when they were trapped in a Horry County Sheriff transport van while crossing an overtopped bridge over the Little Pee Dee River on...
    Officials say two women being transported to a mental health facility by deputies have drowned when they were trapped in the van as it was engulfed in rising South Carolina floodwaters.More >>
    Officials say two women being transported to a mental health facility by deputies have drowned when they were trapped in the van as it was engulfed in rising South Carolina floodwaters.More >>
  • National, world weatherWeather and disaster coverageMore>>

  • Moon to carry private message from Kim Jong Un to Trump

    Moon to carry private message from Kim Jong Un to Trump

    Thursday, September 20 2018 2:18 AM EDT2018-09-20 06:18:24 GMT
    Thursday, September 20 2018 4:14 PM EDT2018-09-20 20:14:02 GMT
    (Pyongyang Press Corps Pool via AP). South Korean President Moon Jae-in, second from right, and his wife Kim Jung-sook, right, stand with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, second from left, and his wife Ri Sol Ju on the Mount Paektu in North Korea, Thur...(Pyongyang Press Corps Pool via AP). South Korean President Moon Jae-in, second from right, and his wife Kim Jung-sook, right, stand with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, second from left, and his wife Ri Sol Ju on the Mount Paektu in North Korea, Thur...
    On the final day of their summit, the Korean leaders are visiting a volcano considered sacred in the North.More >>
    On the final day of their summit, the Korean leaders are visiting a volcano considered sacred in the North.More >>
  • Floodwaters inundate lake at NC power plant, raising alarm

    Floodwaters inundate lake at NC power plant, raising alarm

    Thursday, September 20 2018 1:28 AM EDT2018-09-20 05:28:06 GMT
    Thursday, September 20 2018 4:12 PM EDT2018-09-20 20:12:26 GMT
    (NOAA via AP). In this aerial photo taken Sept. 18, 2018 and released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, an industrial site and a chicken farm outside Wallace, N.C., is seen that has been flooded by the nearby Northeast Cape Fear R...(NOAA via AP). In this aerial photo taken Sept. 18, 2018 and released by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, an industrial site and a chicken farm outside Wallace, N.C., is seen that has been flooded by the nearby Northeast Cape Fear R...
    Aerial photographs show widespread devastation to farms and industrial sites in eastern North Carolina.More >>
    Aerial photographs show widespread devastation to farms and industrial sites in eastern North Carolina.More >>
  • Politics, pride in leaders trip to 'sacred' N. Korea volcano

    Politics, pride in leaders trip to 'sacred' N. Korea volcano

    Thursday, September 20 2018 1:10 AM EDT2018-09-20 05:10:05 GMT
    Thursday, September 20 2018 3:32 PM EDT2018-09-20 19:32:46 GMT
    (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan, File). FILE - In this Aug. 18, 2018, file photo, North Korean soldiers adjust their hats before posing for a photo on a viewing platform overlooking the caldera of Mount Paektu in North Korea. There is no more sacred a place in N...(AP Photo/Ng Han Guan, File). FILE - In this Aug. 18, 2018, file photo, North Korean soldiers adjust their hats before posing for a photo on a viewing platform overlooking the caldera of Mount Paektu in North Korea. There is no more sacred a place in N...
    There is no more sacred place in North Korea than Mount Paektu _ and getting South Korean President Moon Jae-in to go there is a propaganda coup unlike any other.More >>
    There is no more sacred place in North Korea than Mount Paektu _ and getting South Korean President Moon Jae-in to go there is a propaganda coup unlike any other.More >>
  • NationalMore>>

  • 3 hackers get light sentences after working with the FBI

    3 hackers get light sentences after working with the FBI

    Wednesday, September 19 2018 6:28 PM EDT2018-09-19 22:28:55 GMT
    Thursday, September 20 2018 2:52 PM EDT2018-09-20 18:52:09 GMT
    Three computer hackers whose "botnet" known as Mirai virtually paralyzed chunks of the Internet in 2016 have received light sentences after helping the FBI with cybercrime and cybersecurity.More >>
    Three computer hackers whose "botnet" known as Mirai virtually paralyzed chunks of the Internet in 2016 have received light sentences after helping the FBI with cybercrime and cybersecurity.More >>
  • Tesla says it has turned over documents to feds

    Tesla says it has turned over documents to feds

    Tuesday, September 18 2018 1:07 PM EDT2018-09-18 17:07:06 GMT
    Thursday, September 20 2018 4:15 PM EDT2018-09-20 20:15:27 GMT
    Shares of electric car maker Tesla Inc. fell more than 5 percent Tuesday after a report that it's under criminal investigation over statements about taking the company private.More >>
    Shares of electric car maker Tesla Inc. fell more than 5 percent Tuesday after a report that it's under criminal investigation over statements about taking the company private.More >>
  • Canadian crabs with bad attitude threaten coastal ecosystem

    Canadian crabs with bad attitude threaten coastal ecosystem

    Tuesday, September 18 2018 10:57 PM EDT2018-09-19 02:57:16 GMT
    Thursday, September 20 2018 4:15 PM EDT2018-09-20 20:15:03 GMT
    (AP Photos/Robert F. Bukaty, File). FILE - This June 6, 2018, file photo shows a green crab in Portland, Maine. A University of New England researcher said green crabs migrating from Nova Scotia are ornerier and angrier than their Gulf of Maine cousins.(AP Photos/Robert F. Bukaty, File). FILE - This June 6, 2018, file photo shows a green crab in Portland, Maine. A University of New England researcher said green crabs migrating from Nova Scotia are ornerier and angrier than their Gulf of Maine cousins.
    Aggressive Canadian crabs invading US waters from Nova Scotia threaten coastal ecosystem.More >>
    Aggressive Canadian crabs invading US waters from Nova Scotia threaten coastal ecosystem.More >>
Powered by Frankly