Sep 17, 2018

Second breach reported at coal ash site, nuclear plant declares emergency amid Florence’s rains

Kinston, NC
USA
by
E.A. Crunden
,
ThinkProgress
Filthy water seeps from detritus deposited from the Nuese River on the fence along George Skinner's property following flooding from Hurricane Florence September 17, 2018 in Kinston, NC. Photo: Chip Somodevilla, Getty Images
Filthy water seeps from detritus deposited from the Nuese River on the fence along George Skinner's property following flooding from Hurricane Florence September 17, 2018 in Kinston, NC. Photo: Chip Somodevilla, Getty Images

A second breach was reported at a coal ash landfill site in North Carolina on Monday according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the latest impact from Hurricane Florence’s heavy rains. That update comes amid a state of emergency declared at a nuclear power plant overseen by the landfill’s operator, Duke Energy, as the extent of the damage from Florence — now a tropical depression — slowly becomes apparent.

The first Duke Energy Corp. coal ash landfill site experienced a breach on Saturday following an initial spill at the company’s Sutton Power Plant, which is near Wilmington where Florence first made landfall.

Reggie Cheatham, the EPA’s director for its Office of Emergency Management, told reporters Monday that the second spill occurred when some of the landfill’s water eroded, Bloomberg reported. The location of the second breach is not currently known to the EPA.

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Coal ash has been a source of concern for officials and environmental groups monitoring Florence’s path. Such landfill sites can contain toxic mercury, arsenic and lead, among others, and pose a danger to human health as well as the environment. The initial breach over the weekend spilled roughly 2,000 cubic yards of coal ash, Duke said, but the EPA indicated that no coal ash is believed to have reached Cape Fear River, located nearby, although it did hit Sutton Lake.

It is unclear how close the second breach might be to the river, which is already suffering from the impacts of Florence.

After a wastewater treatment plant lost power in Wilmington over the weekend, partially treated sewage flowed into the river. The American Water Works Association has reported 28 water utilities have issued boil-water advisories to people in the region in connection with damage attributed to Florence.

That’s not the only crisis playing out. Thirty miles south of Wilmington, Duke Energy’s Brunswick nuclear plant has declared a state of emergency. The plant’s 1,200-acre complex is currently cut off to outside personnel by flood waters and workers are stranded.