Dan River Steam Station

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February 2014 Coal Ash Spill: For further information on the February 2014 coal ash spill at the Dan River Steam Station, see: Duke Energy Dan River Steam Station Ash Spill February 2014


Dan River Steam Station was a coal-fired power station owned and operated by Duke Energy near Eden, North Carolina. It was retired in 2012.[1]

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Plant Data

  • Owner/Parent Company: Duke Energy
  • Plant Nameplate Capacity: 290 MW (Megawatts)
  • Units and In-Service Dates: 70 MW (1949), 70 MW (1950), 150 MW (1955)
  • Location: 900 South Edgewood Rd., Eden, NC 27288
  • GPS Coordinates: 36.488368, -79.718053
  • Coal Consumption:
  • Coal Source:
  • Number of Employees:

Emissions Data

  • 2006 CO2 Emissions: 1,230,600 tons
  • 2006 SO2 Emissions:
  • 2006 SO2 Emissions per MWh:
  • 2006 NOx Emissions:
  • 2005 Mercury Emissions:


Death and disease attributable to fine particle pollution from Dan River

In 2010, Abt Associates issued a study commissioned by the Clean Air Task Force, a nonprofit research and advocacy organization, quantifying the deaths and other health effects attributable to fine particle pollution from coal-fired power plants.[2] Fine particle pollution consists of a complex mixture of soot, heavy metals, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxides. Among these particles, the most dangerous are those less than 2.5 microns in diameter, which are so tiny that they can evade the lung's natural defenses, enter the bloodstream, and be transported to vital organs. Impacts are especially severe among the elderly, children, and those with respiratory disease. The study found that over 13,000 deaths and tens of thousands of cases of chronic bronchitis, acute bronchitis, asthma, congestive heart failure, acute myocardial infarction, dysrhythmia, ischemic heart disease, chronic lung disease, and pneumonia each year are attributable to fine particle pollution from U.S. coal plant emissions. These deaths and illnesses are major examples of coal's external costs, i.e. uncompensated harms inflicted upon the public at large. Low-income and minority populations are disproportionately impacted as well, due to the tendency of companies to avoid locating power plants upwind of affluent communities. To monetize the health impact of fine particle pollution from each coal plant, Abt assigned a value of $7,300,000 to each 2010 mortality, based on a range of government and private studies. Valuations of illnesses ranged from $52 for an asthma episode to $440,000 for a case of chronic bronchitis.[3]

Table 1: Death and disease attributable to fine particle pollution from Dan River Steam Station

Type of Impact Annual Incidence Valuation
Deaths 18 $130,000,000
Heart attacks 28 $3,000,000
Asthma attacks 300 $15,000
Hospital admissions 13 $320,000
Chronic bronchitis 11 $4,900,000
Asthma ER visits 16 $6,000

Source: "Find Your Risk from Power Plant Pollution," Clean Air Task Force interactive table, accessed February 2011

Associated coal waste site

Spill

This is what coal ash looks like: Dan River spill

On Feb 3, 2014, Duke Energy said 50,000 to 82,000 tons of coal ash and up to 27 million gallons of water were released from a pond at its retired Dan River Steam Station into the Dan River, and were still flowing. A 48-inch stormwater pipe beneath Duke's unlined ash pond broke, and water and ash from the 27-acre pond drained into the pipe.[4]

According to EcoWatch, the coal ash spill appears to be the third-largest in U.S. history. It was discovered after a security guard noted the coal ash pond was running lower than usual, meaning much of it had already drained into the Dan River. Residents of Danville, VA withdraw drinking water just six miles downstream of the spill site.[5]

"High Hazard" Surface Impoundments

Two of Dan River Steam Station's coal ash surface impoundments are on the EPA's official June 2009 list of Coal Combustion Residue (CCR) Surface Impoundments with High Hazard Potential Ratings. The rating applies to sites at which a dam failure would most likely cause loss of human life, but does not assess of the likelihood of such an event.[6]

Coal Ash Waste and Water Contamination

In August 2010 a study released by the Environmental Integrity Project, the Sierra Club and Earthjustice reported that North Carolina, along with 34 states, had significant groundwater contamination from coal ash that is not currently regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The report, in an attempt to pressure the EPA to regulate coal ash, noted that most states do not monitor drinking water contamination levels near waste disposal sites.[7] The report mentioned North Carolina based Dan River Steam Station as having groundwater contamination due to coal ash waste.[8]

Study finds dangerous level of hexavalent chromium at Dan River coal waste site

A report released by EarthJustice and the Sierra Club in early February 2011 stated that there are many health threats associated with a toxic cancer-causing chemical found in coal ash waste called hexavalent chromium. The report specifically cited 29 sites in 17 states where the contamination was found. The information was gathered from existing EPA data on coal ash and included locations in Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, Massachusetts, North Carolina, North Dakota, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Virgina and Wisconsin. In North Carolina, the Dan River Steam Station in Eden, the Asheville Plant in Asheville and the Cape Fear Steam Plant in Montcure all were reported as having high levels of chromium seeping into groundwater.[9]

According to the report, hexavalent chromium (Cr(VI)) was reported at the Dan River unlined landfill and pond coal waste site above 61 ppb (parts per billion) - 3,050 times the proposed California drinking water goals and 22% above the North Carolina drinking water standard.[9]

As a press release about the report read:

Hexavalent chromium first made headlines after Erin Brockovich sued Pacific Gas & Electric because of poisoned drinking water from hexavalent chromium. Now new information indicates that the chemical has readily leaked from coal ash sites across the U.S. This is likely the tip of the iceberg because most coal ash dump sites are not adequately monitored.[10]

According to the report, the electric power industry is the leading source of chromium and chromium compounds released into the environment, representing 24 percent of releases by all industries in 2009.[9]

Other coal waste sites

To see a nationwide list of over 350 coal waste sites in the United States, click here. To see a listing of coal waste sites in a particular state, click on the map:

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Citizen groups

Articles and Resources

Sources

  1. Bruce Henderson, "Duke considers closing old coal plants" Charlotte Observer, Sep. 2, 2010.
  2. "The Toll from Coal: An Updated Assessment of Death and Disease from America's Dirtiest Energy Source," Clean Air Task Force, September 2010.
  3. "Technical Support Document for the Powerplant Impact Estimator Software Tool," Prepared for the Clean Air Task Force by Abt Associates, July 2010
  4. "Duke Energy plant reports coal-ash spill," www.charlotteobserver.com, Feb 3, 2014.
  5. Donna Lisenby, "Breaking: Duke Energy Coal Ash Spill Pollutes River and Threatens Drinking Water," EcoWatch, February 4, 2014.
  6. Coal waste
  7. "Study of coal ash sites finds extensive water contamination" Renee Schoff, Miami Herald, August 26, 2010.
  8. "Enviro groups: ND, SD coal ash polluting water" Associated Press, August 24, 2010.
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 "EPA’s Blind Spot: Hexavalent Chromium in Coal Ash" Earthjustice & Sierra Club, February 1, 2011.
  10. "Coal ash waste tied to cancer-causing chemicals in water supplies" Alicia Bayer, Examiner.com, February 1, 2011.

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