RALEIGH: Researchers: 35M gallons of coal ash spilled in NC - WHLT 22 Connecting the Pine Belt

Researchers: 35M gallons of coal ash spilled in NC

Posted: Updated:
RALEIGH, N.C. -

A team of academic researchers equipped with a drone estimates that up to 35 million gallons of coal ash and contaminated wastewater spilled into the Dan River earlier this month.

Researchers at Wake Forest University's Center for Energy, Environment and Sustainability released results Tuesday from a study using photos collected by the drone that flew over the Duke Energy coal ash dump that ruptured Feb. 2 in Eden. The scientists used images captured by the drone to create a digital three-dimensional model of the pit, allowing them to calculate the volume of toxic ash that flowed out when a pipe collapsed.

The reported amount equals about 53 Olympic-sized swimming pools, making it the third-largest coal ash spill in the nation's history.

"We think we have a precise estimate of the ash and water slurry that flowed out of the pond based on our methodology," said Miles Silman, a biology professor at Wake involved with the project. "The uncertainty comes from the amount of water that continued to drain from the ash, which is a question for hydrologists. Our work provides an independent estimate of the spill."

The researchers' calculations put the size of the spill within the broad range that Duke's engineers had initially estimated.

The Wake Forest survey team has shared its results with federal and state regulators, as well as Duke Energy. The company is reviewing the data, and a spokeswoman said a response would be issued later Tuesday.

An accurate calculation of the size of the spill could be key to determining the amount of whatever fines the company may be assessed for the spill, which authorities say coated the river bottom with gray sludge as far as 70 miles downstream. Coal ash contains numerous chemicals that are toxic to humans and wildlife, including lead, arsenic and mercury.

Federal prosecutors have opened a criminal investigation in the wake of the spill, issuing more than 20 subpoenas to Duke and state regulators.

"We want to be completely transparent in this," Silman said. "Our goal is to help stakeholders deal with the spill and its consequences, and show the technology as a cheap and cost-effective way to monitor the environment."

RELATED STORIES

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

  • Coal Ash SpillMore>>

  • Gov. McCrory raises concerns over Coal Ash Commission

    Gov. McCrory raises concerns over Coal Ash Commission

    Tuesday, August 26 2014 8:58 PM EDT2014-08-27 00:58:01 GMT
    Gov. Pat McCrory says he'll sign a "coal ash cleanup" bill in response to this year's massive spill, but he says he has strong issues with the legislation.
    Gov. Pat McCrory says he'll sign a "coal ash cleanup" bill in response to this year's massive spill, but he says he has strong issues with the legislation.
  • NC moves to fine Duke over coal ash pollution

    NC moves to fine Duke over coal ash pollution

    Tuesday, August 26 2014 5:37 PM EDT2014-08-26 21:37:51 GMT
    Duke Energy's Sutton PlantDuke Energy's Sutton Plant
    DENR moved Tuesday to fine Duke Energy over pollution that has been seeping into the groundwater for years from a pair of coal ash dumps at a retired power plant outside Wilmington.
    DENR moved Tuesday to fine Duke Energy over pollution that has been seeping into the groundwater for years from a pair of coal ash dumps at a retired power plant outside Wilmington.
  • DENR warns Duke Energy about coal ash at Sutton plant

    DENR warns Duke Energy about coal ash at Sutton plant

    Tuesday, August 26 2014 1:57 PM EDT2014-08-26 17:57:05 GMT
    Sutton plantSutton plant
    The N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources ahas sent Duke Energy Progress a notice of violation for the Sutton Electric Plant in New Hanover County.
    The N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources ahas sent Duke Energy Progress a notice of violation for the Sutton Electric Plant in New Hanover County.
  • Most Popular StoriesMost Popular StoriesMore>>

  • Jackson police find car connected to missing teen

    Jackson police find car connected to missing teen

    Jackson police say they have found a car that authorities believe was used in the possible kidnapping of 17-year-old girl.
    Jackson police say they have found a car that authorities believe was used in the possible kidnapping of 17-year-old girl.
  • Col. Holden, first black to lead NC Patrol, dies

    Col. Holden, first black to lead NC Patrol, dies

    Friday, August 22 2014 6:07 PM EDT2014-08-22 22:07:34 GMT
    Col. Richard Holden of Cary, the first African-American to lead the North Carolina Highway Patrol, died Thursday.
    Col. Richard Holden of Cary, the first African-American to lead the North Carolina Highway Patrol, died Thursday.
  • 16-year-old girl stabs another 65 times after nude photos posted on Facebook

    16-year-old girl stabs another 65 times after nude photos posted on Facebook

    Wednesday, April 2 2014 3:29 PM EDT2014-04-02 19:29:36 GMT
    A 16-year-old girl is accused of fatally stabbing her teen ‘best friend' in an attack spurred by nude photos of the pair together posted on social media, according to several media sources.  Anel Baez,
    A 16-year-old girl is accused of fatally stabbing her teen ‘best friend' in an attack spurred by nude photos of the pair together posted on social media, according to several media sources.  Anel Baez,
Powered by WorldNow

5912 Hwy. 49, Ste. A
Hattiesburg, MS 39401

Telephone: 601.545.2077
Fax: 601.545.3589
Email: newsroom@whlt.com

Can't find something?
Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Media General Communications Holdings, LLC. A Media General Company.