Not all the damaging by-products of coal generated power go up in the smoke and soot that comprise earth-killing greenhouse gases.
Much of it stays on the ground. Unfortunately, some of that arsenic and chromium laced pollution finds its way into our water supplies. And when it does, there’s straight hell to pay.
I’m talking about coal ash owned by Duke Energy which found its way into the Dan River. To be specific I’m talking more than 87,000 tons of the sooty coal residue that mixed with 27 million gallons of water on Feb. 2 to create a black slurry that gushed through a rusted, broken pipe beneath a 27 acre unlined coal ash pond and onward into the mighty Dan. The Dan is now cloudy for more than 20 miles.
According to news reports, the North Carolina Dept. of Health and Human Services asked those downstream to “avoid any recreational contact with the water and sediment … and not touch submerged or floating coat ash.” Residents were also advised to not eat any fish or shellfish in the poisoned, polluted river. Of course, the apologists at Duke (the company this week reported a 58 percent jump in fourth quarter profit) say they will clean it all up and the public won’t pay those costs. Right. Oddly, government officials take a tepid stance toward Duke and in a business-friendly, just-say-no-to-regulations state, Duke will no doubt get by virtually unscathed.
In about half an hour I head for my daily walk, bag in hand. It distresses me that a far greater environmental sin is oozing its way down to towns that depend on the Dan for water supplies and other needs. What do we tell those people about how we go about our environmental protections? Their stretch of the Dan will be off limits and dead for a long time to come. Duke Energy will merely move onward and upward.