Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Updates on Elk River WV and NC Duke Energy sites

Elk River Spill in West Virginia

On March 12, 2014, Freedom Industries submitted the first phase of their Tank Decommission Plan for its Charleston facility, site of the Jan. 9 chemical spill into the Elk River. The plan was approved by the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection and details the procedures to be implemented in order to begin removal of the above ground storage tanks at the site. Most of the liquid has already been removed from the tanks, with the exception of a product called tank heel, which is the sludgy stuff left at the bottom of storage tanks and which can't be pumped out using normal procedures.

According to the plan, contractors will start by removing the storage tanks on the north end of the property, near the faulty tank (No. 396) that leaked. Workers have also cut a hole in tank No. 396 to remove the tank heel. The floor of the faulty tank will be taken for examination by the Chemical Safety Board.

Illegal Discharge from Duke Energy Sites? 

According to the New York Times, recent aerial photographs of two Duke Energy coal ash ponds at the head of Cape Fear River show portable pumps and hoses that "appear to be siphoning water into a canal leading to the river."  Inspectors from the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources noticed the pumping while on a site visit last week. A Duke Energy spokesperson said that the pumping was "routine maintenance" allowable under the sites' permits, but if the discharge was untreated wastewater, that would be a violation. The two Cape Fear sites, located near Moncure, NC, have permits for vertical pipes that drain water from the top of the ponds when precipitation and runoff cause water levels to rise. The idea is that the water on the surface should be relatively clean, because the toxic materials sink to the bottom of the ash ponds. Pumping out the deeper water risks releasing contaminants. State regulators are investigating.

An image provided by the Waterkeeper Alliance which shows a portable pump siphoning water from a coals ash pond owned by Duke Energy into a discharge canal leading to the Cape Fear River. 

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