Duke Energy responds as protestors call for answers following coal ash spill

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - The protestors outside of Duke Energy Thursday were alarmed and angry.

"The third largest coal ash spill in U.S. history has not stopped leaking into the Dan River," said Monica Embrey, the North Carolina Organizer for Green Peace. "This is simply irresponsible. You are seeing people here today calling on this company to take into consideration the health and well being of the community."

Tom Williams is Duke Energy's Director of Media Relations. "It was something that was unexpected," he said.

And that is for sure - turns out the pipe that broke Sunday was not made of the reinforced concrete Duke Energy thought it was.

Soon after the spill, company officials had expressed surprise that a reinforced concrete pipe would break.

But the pipe was not made of concrete. It was made of corrugated metal.

"How is it that Duke Energy did not know what that  pipe was made out of?" WBTV's Melissa Hankins asked Williams.

"Well, it was a discovery that we made as we were uncovering the fly ash from the ash basin," he said. "Basically you have the pipe going under the ash basin, and we discovered it."

Environmentalists say the company should have looked before.

"It's really concerning that Duke Energy didn't know its pipe was metal, and they didn't know how seriously at risk these ponds are for breaching," Embrey said.

"We intend to earn back the trust of the people," added Williams.

But that could prove difficult.

"Multiple Duke Energy facilities are listed on the EPA's High Hazard list," Hankins said during an interview with Williams. "What are you going to do about them?"

"Well by the very nature of ash basins, I think that's a categorization that they have," he replied.

But should Duke have to move them?

Green Peace and other groups are calling on Duke Energy to move their coal ash to dry and lined facilities.

Duke Energy says it will conduct a full evaluation of its ash handling process at its power plants and then make recommendations to move forward.

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