Arsenic detected in Dan River after coal ash spill

Published: Feb. 6, 2014 at 11:30 PM EST|Updated: Mar. 8, 2014 at 11:30 PM EST
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Amy Adams, North Carolina campaign coordinator with Appalachian Voices, shows her hand covered...
Amy Adams, North Carolina campaign coordinator with Appalachian Voices, shows her hand covered with wet coal ash from the Dan River swirling in the background as state and federal environmental officials continued their investigations.

RALEIGH, NC (AP) - The nation's largest electricity provider and an environmental group are reporting conflicting data about the levels of toxins detected in a North Carolina river following a massive spill of coal ash.
Duke Energy said Thursday its results from the Dan River downstream from the company's power plant in Eden showed traces of arsenic contamination, but at levels considered safe for both people and aquatic life.
The closest samples the company collected were about two miles downstream from where about 82,000 tons of toxic coal ash has spilled into the river.  The spill was discovered Sunday and is ongoing.
Water samples tested by a certified lab hired by the Waterkeeper Alliance contained hazardous levels of arsenic 10 times higher than Duke's readings.

Those samples were collected yards from the spill site.

"The Dan River does not have a clean bill of health," said Tom Reeder, director of the N.C. Division of Water Resources. "We continue to monitor the situation and are especially concerned about the deposition of coal ash residuals in the sediments underlying the Dan River and how that could affect the long-term health of the river."

DENR is still waiting on metals analysis to be completed for boron, titanium, vanadium, iron, cobalt, beryllium, aluminum, selenium, lithium, manganese and strontium.

A monitoring plan to characterize coal ash in the river bed and along the river banks is in development and will be implemented in the coming days, as well.

This week, DENR has been conducting water quality sampling upstream and downstream of the site of the coal ash spill at the Dan River Steam Station in Eden.

The agency will continue conducting water quality sampling and evaluation in the Dan River for as long as necessary.

One metal, copper, was above the state action level surface water standard both Monday and Tuesday.

Because copper is a naturally occurring element in North Carolina waters, action level exceedances are used to trigger further investigation. While levels of copper decreased significantly on Tuesday, the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources will continue to monitor copper and the other elements.

Copyright 2014 WBTV. The Associated Press contributed to this report. All rights reserved.