Coal ash spills in Wayne County after Hurricane Matthew

GOLDSBORO, N.C. (WNCN) — State officials say during Hurricane Matthew flooding caused a small amount of coal ash to be released from a basin at the Duke Energy HF Lee facility in Wayne County, but environmentalist believe the damage is much worse.

Since the storm, members of the Waterkeeper Alliance have been monitoring the possible effects the HF Lee plant had on the Neuse River.

“More than a million tons of coal ash is sitting between four and ten feet thick, right below the ground surface,” said Pete Harrison.

Harrison is a member of the Waterkeeper Alliance. He says with raging flood waters, and exposed coal ash near the river, it’s only common sense what happened, and if it’s not there is plenty of visual proof along the banks of the Neuse.

Along the river there is an obvious line on tree’s, branches, and in the water where Harrison says coal ash has leaked from the plant into the river.

“No idea how much washed out into the river,” he said.

But officials with Duke Energy say what you see in the water is not coal ash. Danielle Peoples, a spokesperson for Duke Energy, says it’s another part of the byproduct of burning coal known as “cenospheres”.

Cenospheres would have been in the same basins as the coal ash when the flood waters came through, and Peoples says about a pick-up truck bed worth of coal ash was found outside the basin, however she says Duke Energy as well as State officials have been testing the waters around the plant

“We really want people to feel confident that we are operating our facilities safely that we have taken steps to address issues that arose during the historic flooding,” said Peoples.

Duke Energy as tested the waters every day since the flooding, however they only tested from the shoreline of the Neuse River, and not gone into the water like Waterkeepers have.

Duke Energy officials say they say they will go out into the Neuse when flood waters have receded and state officials say it is safe.

An official report to the National Response Center from Duke Energy on Oct. 14 says a caller witnessed a coal ash spill that reached the water.

In response to that, Peoples said:

The notification was made to be conservative and transparent and was made during a very fluid time when we were still gathering information.  Formal statements from duke and the state offer a much more complete view of the situation after inspections were made and tests results received.”

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