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Feds to investigate coal ash spill

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World Coal,

Federal prosecutors are investigating the spillage of thousands of gallons of coal ash from Duke Energy’s Dan River power plant in North Carolina.

The US Attorney’s Office in Raleigh has ordered officials from the utility company – the largest electricity supplier in the US – as well as officials from the state regulator, the North Carolina Department for the Environment and Natural Resources (NCDENR), to appear before a grand jury next month with documents related to the spill.

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The company initially estimated that 82,000 short t on ash has been released into the Dan River after a storm water pipe under a 27 acre coal ash pond broke, although revised estimates now put the total volume of ash released at 30,000 – 40,000 short t. In addition, 24 – 27 million gallons of wastewater also reached the river, according to the utility's initial estimates.

According to Reuters, the spill comes amid a ongoing dispute over Duke’s coal ash storage in North Carolina. Last year, the state’s environmental regulator sued the utility over allegations of water quality violations at the company’s power plants. Earlier this week, a controversial settlement, which would have seen the utility pay US$ 99,111 in fines, was put on hold after criticism from environmental groups.

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A new “multidisciplinary task force” would now be created at the environmental agency to inspect all of Duke’s coal ash dumps in the state, said North Carolina’s Republican governor and former Duke employee, Pat McCrory. “We need a comprehensive plan to address the future of coal ash in North Carolina and we need to make sure we have all available resources to respond to this situation, including the knowledge we have gained during our environmental assessment and investigation into the spill of the coal ash into the Dan River,” said McCrory.

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