Riverbend Steam Station Primary Pond
- Owner: Duke Energy
- Associated coal plant: Riverbend Steam Station
- Location: Mount Holly, NC
- GPS coordinates: 35.3600, -80.9700
- Hazard potential: High
- Year commissioned: 1957
- Year(s) expanded: 1979
- Material(s) stored: Fly ash, Bottom ash, Boiler slag, Water treatment
- Professional Engineer (PE) designed?: No
- PE constructed?: No
- PE monitored?: No
- Significant deficiencies identified: None
- Corrective measures: None
- Surface area (acres): Confidential
- Storage capacity (acre feet): Confidential
- Unit Height (feet): Confidential
- Historical releases: None
- Additional notes:
Associated coal waste site
Coal waste in the United States
A January 2009 study by The New York Times following the enormous TVA coal ash spill found that there are more than 1,300 surface impoundments across the U.S. containing coal waste, with some sites as large as 1,500 acres. Also in January 2009, an Associated Press study found that 156 coal-fired power plants store ash in surface ponds similar to the one that ruptured at Kingston Fossil Plant. The states with the most storage in coal ash in ponds are Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky, Georgia and Alabama. The AP's analysis found that in 2005, 721 power plants generating at least 100 MW of electricity produced 95.8 million tons of coal ash, about 20 percent of which - or almost 20 million tons - ended up in surface ponds. The rest of the ash winds up in landfills or is sold for other uses. In June 2009, EPA released its list of 44 "high hazard potential" coal waste sites, which included 12 sites in North Carolina, 9 in Arizona, 6 in Kentucky, 6 in Ohio, and 4 in West Virginia. The full list is available here.
High levels of arsenic found near pond
A 2012 Duke University-led study of coal ash contaminants published in the journal Environmental Science & Technology found high levels of toxic arsenic near the Riverbend Steam Station. The study reported contaminants downstream of coal plant ash settling ponds in the 11 lakes and rivers sampled. Concentrations tended to be highest in small bodies of water, such as 2,914-acre Mountain Island Lake. Water flowing into the lake from the Riverbend power plant’s ash ponds had arsenic concentrations up to nine times higher than the federal drinking water standard. It also found arsenic at levels that could harm aquatic life in water at the lake bottom, as it could accumulate in fish tissue. The Duke study also found high levels of contamination in the French Broad River in Asheville, and in Hyco and Mayo lakes near the Virginia line. Lakes Norman and Wylie were among other water bodies studied. The study also reported that plants equipped with scrubbers to control air pollution often discharged water high in selenium.
Mecklenburg County water quality officials had sampled lake water near the Riverbend discharge point eight times a year since mid-2009, and detected arsenic above the state water quality standard five times. Concentrations have been up to three times higher than the state standard. Mecklenburg officials had asked the state’s environmental agency to set tougher standards when permits for ash-pond discharges on the three Charlotte-area lakes were renewed in early 2011. N.C. officials included new limits only for copper and iron at Riverbend but ordered more sampling of water and fish near the power plants on all three Charlotte-area lakes. The new sampling has raised no red flags, according to Duke Energy; the plants have to sample their discharges for arsenic, mercury, and selenium, but don’t have fixed limits on those elements, suggesting power plant owners do not have to take action if they see high readings.
- Center for Public Integrity
- Energy Justice Network
- Environmental Integrity Project
- Institute for Southern Studies
- Organic Consumers Association
- Sludge Safety Project
- Sierra Club
- Southern Environmental Law Center
- Coal Ash Survey Results, Environmental Protection Agency, accessed December 2009.
- Shaila Dewan, "Hundreds of Coal Ash Dumps Lack Regulation," New York Times, January 7, 2009.
- Dina Cappiello, "Toxic Coal Ash Piling up in Ponds in 32 States," Associated Press, January 9, 2009.
- Shaila Dewan, "E.P.A. Lists ‘High Hazard’ Coal Ash Dumps," New York Times, June 30, 2009.
- Bruce Henderson, "Arsenic in Mountain Island Lake, study says," Charlotte Observer, Oct. 16, 2012.
Related SourceWatch articles
- Coal Ash Safety Issues, Donald Saxman, altenergymag.com (undated)
- "Coal Ash: 130 Million Tons of Waste," 60 Minutes, October 4, 2009.
- Charles Duhigg, "Toxic Waters: Clean Water Laws Are Neglected, At a Cost in Suffering,", New York Times, September 12, 2009.
- Kirstin Lombardi, "Coal ash: The hidden story," Center for Public Integrity, February 19, 2009.
- "Coal Ash: A National Problem Needs a National Solution," Earth Justice fact sheet, January 2009.
- "Toxic Ash: A License to Pollute," Post and Courier, October 26-29, 2008.
- "Coal Combustion Waste," As You May or May Not Know..., March 27, 2008.
- House Committee on Natural Resources, Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources: Oversight Hearing, "How Should the Federal Government Address the Health and Environmental Risks of Coal Combustion Waste?,", June 10, 2007.
- Martha Keating, "Cradle to Grave: The Environmental Impacts from Coal," Clean Air Task Force, June 2001.
- Martha Keating, Ellen Baum and Eric Round, "Laid to Waste: The Dirty Secret of Combustion Waste from America's Power Plants," Citizens Coal Council, Hoosier Environmental Council, Clean Air Task Force, March 2000.