In 2012, when Duke Energy’s Dan River coal-fired power plant in Eden, North Carolina was retired, many local residents may have thought that they were now free of the plant’s worst pollution. Unfortunately, plants of this type can leave a lasting pollution legacy, including coal ash waste which can remain toxic for decades. At the Dan River plant the coal ash was stored in an unlined pond on the edge of the Dan River.
In February 2014, a storm water pipe under the pond broke, draining toxic coal ash into the Dan River. By the time the pipe had been sealed a week later, 27 million gallons of slurry and 80,000 tons of coal ash had been dumped into the river, causing untold economic and environmental damage. The Dan River supplies drinking water to the town of Danville, just across the border in Virginia.