DANVILLE: Duke Energy removing ash from the Dan River - WRBL

Duke Energy removing ash from the Dan River

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DANVILLE, Va. -

One container load at a time, Duke Energy continued to clean the Dan River in Danville, Virginia, where in February nearly 39,000 tons of ash spilled into the water, coating 70 miles of the river with toxic sludge.

The largest deposit of ash found so far sits just above Danville's water intake. Duke estimates it's about 2,500 tons of ash -- 20 feet wide, 1 foot deep and as long as three football fields.

Duke Energy closed Abreu Grogan Park in Danville on April 1 to begin preparing the area for the cleanup project.

The company is using vacuum dredging to remove the ash. The dredge is set up on a barge that passes along the river, sucking up coal ash and sediment and then pumping it into a giant sifter. From there, the ash is separated from the water and runs down a conveyer to lined containers.

The water is then put into a giant settling tank to remove any remaining ash before being pumped back into the river. Duke said the quality of that water must meet Virginia's water quality standards.

At full steam, the site can remove about 100 tons of ash each day. Once the ash is piled into lined containers, it is covered and hauled to the Upper Piedmont landfill in Person County.

Officials said the park is expected to reopen to the public in July.

"When we leave here, we will return the river at the same -- if not a better -- condition that it was before," explained Jeff Brooks, spokesman for Duke Energy.

Duke said the company will soon begin removing another ash deposit near Town Creek that contains about 40 tons of ash. The company said it also removed up to 350 tons from the water treatment plant filters in Danville.

At this point, it brings the total amount of ash Duke Energy plans to remove to 2,390 tons out of the 39,000 that spilled.

"I think it's realistic to say that we'll find a lot of areas where it may cause more harm to remove it than leaving it in place, but we're going to have to evaluate that on a site-by-site basis," Brooks explained.

Brooks said the areas that will most likely be left alone are where the ash has sunk below the sediment at the bottom of the river.

Duke Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, the Virginia Division of Water Quality and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are all monitoring the clean-up process.

Duke said it will continue to look for deposits of ash that it can remove from the Dan River.

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Jonathan Rodriguez

Jonathan Rodriguez is an investigative reporter and member of the WNCN Investigates team. His storytelling specialty is connecting the dots to get to the truth, with a goal of delivering results for our community. If you have something you’d like WNCN to investigate, contact Jonathan.

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