Broken Pipe Plugged at Duke Energy Plant

A break occurred Feb. 2 in a 48-inch stormwater pipe beneath an ash basin at a retired coal plant in Eden, N.C., releasing at least 50,000 tons of ash to the Dan River, the company estimates.

Duke Energy crews on Feb. 8 finished installing a permanent plug in a broken stormwater pipe at the company's closed coal-fired Dan River Steam Station in Eden, N.C., to stop the leak from an ash basin, company officials announced. The announcement said the plug is a concrete grout material and capping system; it hardened and was successfully tested, and now workers will grout the entire pipe.

"Plugging the pipe was clearly job one, but we're continuing our efforts and working closely with all the agencies involved in this response," said Charlie Gates, senior vice president of Power Generation Operations. "Our next step is to continue to monitor the water quality of the river and to accelerate our planning for the best long-term solution at the site."

Water tests of the river by the company and by the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (NCDENR) indicate water quality continues to improve downstream of the spill site.

"We're committed to the Dan River and the communities that it serves. We are accountable for what has happened and have plenty of work ahead of us," Gates said.

A sampling of water quality testing being done near the site is available here on the Duke Energy website.

The break in the 48-inch was discovered Feb. 2. The pipe was built decades ago, and later the ash basin was expanded so that it extended over the pipe. The section that broke is corrugated metal, which connects to a reinforced concrete pipe closer to the river.

DENR reported that its initial water quality testing at the plant on Feb. 4 "showed no deviation from normal levels of temperature, pH, dissolved oxygen and conductivity due to the release of water and ash from the facility’s coal ash impoundment." However, DENR also said these initial results "do NOT mean the water is safe. DENR staff are continuing to sample and test the water. On Tuesday, the first round of water samples were delivered to a lab in Raleigh for further testing for heavy metals, sulfates, nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus), and total suspended solids."

DENR reported it is testing for metals that include copper, nickel, sodium, arsenic, beryllium, selenium, and cobalt.