About 80,000 tons of coal ash mixed with 27 million gallons of contaminated water has leaked from an idled, since 2012, coal-ash storage facility - the Dan river steam station - in Eden, North Carolina. The material has flown into Dan river, a main drinking water source in North Carolina and Virginia. The facility is run by Duke Energy, the U.S.'s largest electricity provider, who took immediate action to restrain the spill and protect the water supplies of the area, while regulators are examining potential hazards on people and wildlife.
According to the company's news release the spil started on Feb. 3rd, after the structural failure of a 48in. diameter stormwater pipe, located under the coal-ash storage pond, which used to convey collected surface rainwater into the river. The failure provided a drainage path for the pond's coal-ash material to flow into Dan river, which continued until Feb. 8th, when Duke Energ completed the installation of a permanent plug to stop the coal-ash release into the river.
Experts are examining whether the hazardous material, which may contain toxic chemicals including lead, arsenic, mercury and radioactive uranium is dangerous to people and wildlfe. Program manager with the Dan River Basin Association, Brian Williams expressed his concerns about the damage extent and the long-term effects on the local ecosystem.
The Dan River facility is on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's list of 49 "high hazard" coal-ash storage sites and is not lined, urging for action on behalf of EPA. Also, the Geosynthetics Material Association (GMA) has taken action to suggest and promote suitable solutions to the issue, through the use of geosyntheric materials. The use of the particular technology can be applied for the reinforcement, stabilization and expansion of new and older coal-ash storage facilities, hence narrowing the possibilities of a future environmental disaster.