NORTH CAROLINA- The flooding caused by hurricane Matthew has damaged the Duke Energy cooling pond dam so severely that it has now collapsed. The families surrounding the dam are now in even more danger than they were before, and should not have to worry about further flooding from the cooling pond.
Wednesday, the pond that holds 1.2 billion gallons of water began releasing thousands of gallons of water into the community surrounding Duke Energy in Goldsboro, North Carolina. Pete Harrison, staff attorney at Waterkeeper Alliance, and Matthew Starr, Upper Neuse Riverkeeper are responding to the catastrophe with this comment:
“This failure likely happened because the river has begun to recede, which is when structural problems often develop. Like so many of Duke Energy’s coal ash ponds across the state, the cooling pond at Lee has a long history of structural problems – these are disasters waiting to happen.”
“Minutes before the dam collapsed on the cooling pond, Duke Energy issued a statement declaring it was operating safely. Duke continues to claim the dam of a 120-acre coal ash pond at Lee is operating safely, even though the river has only begun to recede. The same ash pond suffered extensive damage after flooding caused by Hurricane Floyd in 1999. We remain very concerned about the integrity of the ash pond dams at Lee as the river recedes over the next week.”
“It has been more than two years since the Dan River disaster, and Duke’s coal ash continues to sit behind rickety dams on the banks of flood-prone rivers all across the state. Three ash ponds at the Lee plant, totalling 160 acres, have been completely submerged since Sunday.”
Organizers with Greenpeace have also responded to the breakage of the dam:
“Duke Energy can attack environmental groups all it wants, but the fact remains that it is misleading the public and the people of North Carolina about the safety of its dams, and Governor McCrory is letting the company get away with it- again. As the flood waters from the devastating Hurricane Matthew recede, we need a Governor who will put people’s safety and access to clean drinking water before the interests of his previous employer, Duke Energy.”
“Duke Energy has a terrible track record when it comes to protecting the safety of North Carolina’s waterways and drinking water. In the two years since the Dan River coal ash disaster, Duke Energy has fought efforts to clean up leaking coal ash pits which threaten the health and safety of nearby communities. Instead of cleaning up its hazardous messes, Duke uses its political influence with its previous employee, Governor McCrory, allowing the company to leave 70 percent of its toxic coal ash leaking across the state.”
“Hurricane Matthew proves again that Governor McCrory will always put corporate interests before the people of North Carolina.”
Duke Energy spokeswoman Erin Culbert’s has now spoken out about the deadly collapse:
“There is water still coming into the cooling pond from the Neuse River through the spillway, and now there is water leaving the cooling pond though the opening in the basin wall.”
Duke officials said they expect the water from the cooling pond to add less than 1 inch to the rising levels of the Neuse.
“The active ash basin is not impacted by this incident and continues to operate safely,”
Below is a video of the moment the dam collapsed, courtesy of Ecowatch: