"Report: N.C. Ignores Coal Ash Threat"

"The state largely ignores millions of tons of ash from coal-fired power plants that threatens to contaminate N.C. groundwater, lakes and streams, the N.C. Sierra Club says in a report today.

Coal ash has gotten increased scrutiny since a massive spill of ash sludge in Tennessee in late 2008. Ash contains potentially toxic metals such as arsenic, cadmium and mercury.

The Sierra report, like an Observer article in December, focuses on the use of dry ash to fill gullies and prepare roadbeds and building sites. More than 800,000 tons of ash was used for so-called structural fill statewide last year, the report says.

Coal ash slurry pours into the first of two settling ponds adjacent to the Riverbend Steam Station on Mountain Island Lake. Duke Energy disposes tons of coal ash from its power plants, the stuff is laden with heavy metals that can be toxic if it reaches streams or lakes.

Those sites don't have to be lined to keep toxic material out of groundwater and aren't regularly checked to find whether they're tainting water. Property deeds often don't show that ash has been dumped, as state law requires.

Ash is known to have contaminated water in Robeson, Nash and Northampton counties, according to state records, the report said. More often, it said, no one looks for contamination."

Bruce Henderson reports for McClatchy Newspapers April 12, 2010.

Monday, April 12, 2010