Coal ash didn’t pollute NC river above state standards, officials say

Coal ash didn’t pollute NC river above state standards, officials say
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North Carolina officials didn’t find any evidence that potential coal ash in the Cape Fear River led to unacceptable water pollution levels.

The state’s Department of Environmental Quality released test results late Thursday from near Duke Energy’s shuttered Sutton coal-fired power plant, showing that nearly all metal levels met state standards.

Duke had earlier acknowledged that last month’s Hurricane Florence caused some coal ash from the plant to get into the river. Coal ash is a waste product from burning coal and contains harmful heavy metals like arsenic and cadmium.

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The official testing results match Duke’s claims that the ash spills didn’t compromise water quality.

“Test results show all metals below state water quality standards with the exception of dissolved copper,” the state agency said. Copper levels frequently rise after flooding, and the state doesn’t believe it to be harmful.

The results clash with testing that the Waterkeeper Alliance released earlier in the week. That group said arsenic levels with 70 times the state limit.

Another Duke North Carolina plant was the site of a major 2014 coal ash spill into the Dan River, in which 39,000 tons were released. That, in part, led the Obama administration to implement the first federal coal ash disposal standards in an effort to prevent future spills.