At approximately 1500 hours on February 2, 2014, security officials at the Duke Energy Dan River Steam Station (Facility) located in Eden, North Carolina, noticed liquefied coal ash leaking from a buried storm sewer into the Dan River. According to EPA approximately 39,000 tons of ash and 27 million gallons of ash pond water were released. These releases may have affected reaches of the Dan River in North Carolina and Virginia over many miles downstream and natural resources for which Federal and State agencies may assert trusteeship under Section 107(f) of CERCLA and the National Oil and Hazardous Substances Pollution Contingency Plan.
Coal ash is a gray, powdery byproduct of burning coal to produce energy. It is composed of materials remaining after coal is burned, including fine sand (called silica), unburned carbon, various metals, and compounds that have potential to be Contaminants of Potential Concern (COPCs). Based on initial screening of environmental samples following the spill, COPCs associated with coal ash on which to focus NRDA investigations related to the Dan River ash release include, but may not be limited to, arsenic, copper, selenium, iron, turbidity, zinc, and lead.
The natural resources affected or potentially affected by the release include, but are not limited to the following:
- freshwater fish, including the federally listed endangered Roanoke logperch (Percina rex);
- migratory birds, including songbirds, waterfowl, raptors, and others;
- lands, including wetlands, flood plain, and instream;
- aquatic and terrestrial plants, invertebrates, including the federally listed endangered James spinymussel (Pleurobema collina), and microorganisms, and;
- surface waters and sediments.
The ecosystem services provided by these natural resources include, but are not limited to, the following:
- habitat for trustee species, including food, shelter, breeding areas, and other factors essential to survival, and;
- recreational uses such as sport fishing, water-contact recreation, boating, canoeing, hiking, nature observation, hunting, and other activities.