The 2014 Coal Ash Spill In Eden, North Carolina

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by gcallan000
Last updated 6 years ago

Environmental Studies

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The 2014 Coal Ash Spill In Eden, North Carolina


What is Coal Ash?

The 2014 Coal Ash Spill in Eden, North Carolina

Coal ash is the waste that remains when coal is burned. There are various types of coal ash based on physical properties.• Fly Ash: Ash composed of primarily of silica that comes from burning finely ground coal in a boiler.• Bottom Ash: Large sharp angular ash that is too big to travel up into the smoke stacks and forms at the bottom of coal furnaces.• Boiler Slag: Molten material collected from the bottom of a boiler that occurs in certain types of furnaces and forms pellets when cooled.• Flue Gas Desulferization Material: Sulfide and sulfate by-product left over from a process to reduce sulifide and sulfate emissions.

In February 2014 a pipe burst under a Duke Energy ash disposal pond in Eden, NC, releasing a massive amount of coal ash into the Dan River. The spill consisted of 50,000 to 82,000 tons of coal ash and other chemicals, in addition to 27 million gallons of water laden with metals and chemicals. It is the third largest spill of its kind in the US. There have been many short term ecologic and economic impacts and based on other case studies of coal ash spills there will also be many long term health and groundwater effects. Images

Before the Dan River coal ash spill.

After the Dan River coal ash spill.

Implications of the Spill

The total cost due to the coal ash spill into the Dan River comes out to an estimated $295,485,000. The factors contributing to this cost include ecological damage, recreational impact, human health and consumptive use, and esthetic value.

Ecological Impacts

Human Health and Consumptive Use

Coal ash storage and disposal has resulted in observed heavy metal contamination of groundwater, and in some cases polluting residential drinking wells.Case Study 1: Chesapeake, VACase Study 2: Gambrillis, MD

Potential Groundwater Impacts


In conclusion, we predict that just as in the case studies discussed, there will be further environmental and economic consequences of the 2014 Coal Ash Spill. Coal is one of the principle energy resources in the world so it is important to dispose of coal ash in a sustainable and ecologically sound way. Currently there are moves being made to recycle coal ash in a sustainable way which will limit the pollution caused by landfills and impoundments. Additionally, it is imperative that sustainable policies be developed to police the disposal of coal ash and to determine how to clean up the pollutants already present in the environment.

Ann Shields Chris Doorn Genevieve Allan

Geologic Setting

The Dan River is a meandering river. Furthermore, the town of Eden lies on a sedimentary basin. This means that the contamination risks seeping into nearby confined and unconfined aquifers.

• Ash settles and compacts, becoming nearly impenetrable for burrowing organisms• High levels of arsenic, barium, copper, and selenium in water and sediments. • Certain Benthic flora and fauna eliminated or displaced.• Ash asphyxiation and smothering.

There are potential health hazards from consuming fish and other organisms exposed to coal ash. Coal ash has been found to contain arsenic, lead, mercury, cadmium, chromium and selenium, which if ingested can lead to cancer, developmental delays, cognitive deficits, behavioral problems, or death.

Possible Solutions

Map of the Dan River area on the NC/VA border.

Adaptation•Lined Containers•Arid Storage (far from fluvial environments)•Recycling (bricks, asphalt and cement)

Mitigation•Improved technology•Reduce coal use•Better coal washing practices

Duke Energy's Solution

•Eliminate further use of coal ash ponds•Place coal ash from the spill into abandoned NC clay mines


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