A fierce storm that ravaged the Southeast recently dredged up a toxic conflict in North Carolina: the extent of hazards tied to coal ash.
The state’s Department of Environment Quality lashed out at environmental groups yesterday for alleging a large coal ash spill tied to Hurricane Matthew.
The storm careened through Florida, the Carolinas and Virginia Oct. 6-9, causing severe damage and loss of life.
Waterkeeper Alliance and Sound Rivers, local environmental groups, say Hurricane Mathew flooded inactive Duke Energy coal ash ponds near Goldsboro, N.C., spilling an unclear amount of fly ash that clung to trees and floated atop waters as they eventually receded.
The Neuse River crested at nearly 30 ft. near Goldsboro in the days after the storm, edging out a record held for roughly 17 years, the National Weather Service said.
But the devastation has proven no rallying cry for more coal ash unity in the state, according to public comments by the government and environmental groups.
“It’s unfortunate that a political group masquerading as environmentalists is deliberately trying to mislead the public,” Tom Reeder, assistant secretary of the environmental department, saidyesterday. “This type of fear mongering is appalling in the wake of a storm that cost people their lives, their homes, and their businesses.”
Reeder didn’t identify the “group” specifically, referring only to a “special interest group.” The material floating in the water is non-toxic, the statement said.
The total-released ash would actually only fill a pickup truck, according to the government. Waterkeeper Alliance and Sound Rivers tell a different story though.
“This spill is easily visible to anyone in a boat. The area looks like a winter wonderland of toxic coal ash as it has coated the water and trees,” Matthew Starr, a Sound Rivers employee, saidin a Waterkeeper Alliance statement the day before the Reeder statement. “It is hard for me to understand how both Duke Energy and state regulators failed to notice such a large area of coal ash contaminating the Neuse River when they claim to have inspected these very ash ponds.”
That statement posted the video of the alleged spill.
A long-running North Carolina dispute over coal ash handling led to a high-profile Health and Human Services Department resignation in August.
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