Tom Augspurger, left, with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service takes a core sample six days after the Feb. 2, 2014, coal ash spill into the Dan River. Steve Alexander U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
Tom Augspurger, left, with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service takes a core sample six days after the Feb. 2, 2014, coal ash spill into the Dan River. Steve Alexander U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Local

Dan River ash damage plan out for comment

By Bruce Henderson

bhenderson@charlotteobserver.com

June 16, 2015 11:50 AM

UPDATED June 16, 2015 08:50 PM

A state-federal team is seeking public comment on its plan to assess natural resource damage from Duke Energy’s 2014 spill of coal ash into the Dan River.

The spill dumped up to 39,000 tons of ash into the Dan in Eden. Ash washed 77 miles downstream to Kerr Reservoir in eastern Virginia and North Carolina.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Virginia Department of Environmental Quality and North Carolina’s Department of Environment and Natural Resources are jointly overseeing the damage assessment.

Federal law lets state and federal agencies pursue claims against Duke to restore, replace or acquire natural resources equal to those that were damaged, and to seek cash compensation.

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On the Dan, damages may range from riverbed mussels smothered by ash to the loss of recreational access to the river.

Duke has cited studies indicating the Dan quickly regained its health after the spill. But biologists say toxic metals in the ash could remain in the river’s food chain for years.

An academic study released last November said the monetary damage to the river could exceed $300 million.

Claims against Duke could pay for projects such as land acquisition, stream restoration or improved boating access.

Henderson: 704-358-5051;

Twitter: @bhender

How to comment

Public comment on the assessment will be taken until July 17. Send written comments to Sara Ward, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, P.O. Box 33726, Raleigh 27636-3726, or Sara_Ward@fws.gov.