River Advocates Concerned With Duke Energy's Cleanup of Dan River

Danville, VA-- Some river advocate groups are upset over a statement made by Duke Energy .

The company announced they're done with their clean up efforts from the massive coal ash spill in the Dan River nearly six months ago.

Representatives from the Dan River Basin Association and Waterkeeper Alliance said they've closely monitored the river since the spill and their recent findings show there's still coal-ash buried under sediment. The EPA agrees, but said their data shows that those ash deposits are nothing to be worried about.

After removing 2,500 tons of coal ash from the Schoolfield dam area of coal ashand more than 500 from Dan River Steam Station and Town Creek, Duke Energy says there's no additional deposits to be removed. That statement is causing concern.

"I think it's irresponsible to say that the river is anywhere close to back to normal or clean, because it's not," said Brian Williams, Program Manger for Dan River Basin Association.

Williams is referring to coal ash under layers of sediment. He said there's still plenty of it.

"The floods covered them up with sediment, and the floods will re-expose them again," Williams said.

The EPA, which directed the removal operation, said their data shows the coal ash buried at the river bottom poses no threat.

"The issue is reducing the metal content , not the percentage of ash. If there's metal exceeding, the metal is what can possibly can cause an issue if it reaches a certain concentration of metal," said Myles Bartos, EPA Federal On-Scene Coordinator.

Bartos said disturbing the ash in the sediment could do more harm than good. It could possibly cause toxic mercury and cancer-causing chemicals to contaminate the river.

"The environmental impact of that could be much much greater than the actual leaving in and monitoring it for periods of time," Bartos added.

Waterkeeper Alliance questions that.

"I have yet to see any sort of data to validate those concerns,"said Pete Harrison, a Waterkeeper Alliance attorney.

Duke Energy said although they are leaving Abreu-Grogan Park, they'll continue to monitor along with the EPA and other agencies. If deposits of contamination are later discovered, they'll remove them.

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