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Originally published: 2014-02-19 13:25:23
Last modified: 2014-02-19 13:26:09

Dan River sampling continues, feds probing spill

by Anna Oakes

The N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources continues to release daily updates on the Dan River coal ash spill amid national media attention and federal scrutiny, including a U.S. District Court subpoena.


The state environmental agency announced Monday that it has begun water sampling at the upper end of the John H. Kerr Reservoir in Virginia, bringing water quality sampling locations to a total of five -- one upstream and four downstream of the spill site in Eden. The Kerr Lake site is 80 river miles downstream of the spill site.


"By adding Kerr Lake to our sampling plan, we are extending our understanding of the effects of the spill and will be better able to determine a strategy for the long-term cleanup of the Dan River," said Tom Reeder, director of the N.C. Division of Water Resources, in a statement.


The agency has been posting its sampling results to a website dedicated to the spill response, http://danriverspill.ncdenr.gov. 


Duke Energy is the owner of the retired Dan River Steam Station and the coal ash pond that drained into the river through a broken stormwater pipe under the pond, which was discovered Feb. 2. DENR said it observed leaks in a second, separate stormwater pipe underneath the ash basin and on Tuesday ordered Duke to immediately halt discharges from the pipe after tests revealed elevated levels of arsenic.


Last week, DENR and Duke Energy received subpoenas from the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina and ordered to appear before a grand jury with documents related to the coal ash spill.


A Feb. 10 letter from U.S. Attorney Thomas G. Walker noted that "an official criminal investigation of a suspected felony is being conducted."