The North Carolina flood continued to flood a 47-year-old toxic-coal basin alongside Duke Energy's L.V. Sutton power plant on Saturday, polluted water pours into an artificial lake and then into the Cape Fear River.
The rising waters also flooded a 625-megawatt natural gas facility on the site, forcing them to shut down. The water in the plant was at least six inches deep, said Duke spokeswoman Paige H. Sheehan. The video, released on Saturday by state regulators, showed equipment and buildings in the complex rising from a huge expanse of water.
The company said in a press release on Friday that workers are moving "large rocks and other materials" to plug gaping holes in the dams, and on Saturday added that it would bring additional construction materials from across the state. Sheehan said Duke has used booms with curtains to try to remove some of the leaking material.
The collapse of the defenses at the Duke plant underscored that, although Hurricane Florence is over, rising riverine waters continue to increase pollution by storm. There were at least 34 porcine lagoons that spewed feces and urine into the surrounding areas. Nine more were flooded by floods and 47 on the verge of abundance.
"It is imperative that both the pork lobsters and the coal ash ponds be removed from the flood-prone areas near our rivers and lakes before the next superstorm hits us," said Kemp Burdette, part of a network of environmentalists US rivers in a statement Saturday.
Satellite images of Camp Lejeune from the US Geological Survey show large black spots that have been spilled into the ocean by large rivers. The Environmental Working Group said the photos "demonstrate the consequences of concentrating concentrated animal feeding operations … in low-lying areas along sensitive flood plains."
Fears about the situation at Duke Energy's L.V. The Sutton power plant near Wilmington has grown since landing in Florence. Earlier in the week, rain poured out of the storm hole into the wall of a separate coal ash dump near the former coal plant on the shores of artificial Sutton Lake and near the Cape Fear River. A special black membrane installed to receive the garbage was torn open in at least two places.
Duke Energy estimated last weekend that the storm washed away more than 2,000 cubic meters of coal waste – enough to fill more than 150 dump trucks. Environmental group Waterkeeper Alliance said in a statement on Saturday that violations at the landfill "swallowed a bulldozer and a tractor".
More bad news came on Friday. The company said that the dam separating the Cape Fear River from the man-made Sutton Lake, which contains water to cool the power plant, suffered a major breakthrough and several minor fractures. Meanwhile, a steel wall separating the oldest of the two remaining coal ash depots at the site was flooded. The National Weather Service said the water levels in the river will continue to rise until Saturday and remain above record levels by next week.
"We can not rule out that charcoal moves ash into the river," Sheehan said in an email Friday.
The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality stated that several teams monitor the conditions at the Sutton facility and remain in close contact with the engineers on site. On Friday morning, the company notified public servants of a break between 100 and 200 feet at the southern end of Sutton Lake. State officials used drones to monitor site conditions.
"While the state is currently in emergency mode, a thorough investigation of the events will soon follow to ensure that Duke Energy is held responsible for the environmental impacts caused by its coal ash facilities," said Bridget Munger, an Agency spokeswoman -Mail.
Earthjustice Human Resources Attorney Pete Harrison turned on the Cape Fear River on Friday with a member of the Clean Water Advocacy Group Waterkeeper Alliance. He said that water from Lake Sutton "leaked" into the river at several points.
Harrison said that he and his colleagues saw water fountains with coal ash particles, some floating on the surface and some swimming underneath. "These swirling feathers continued for miles, and we watched them forming as they streamed out of the lake," he said.
Coal is what is left after coal is burned in a power plant and contains heavy metals including arsenic, lead, mercury and chromium. The Sutton factory switched from coal to natural gas years ago, but the waste remains on the site. Further inland, the company's Lee power plant has three pits with coal ash and covered earth and trees; Heavy rain washed coal ash from these locations in the nearby Neuse River.
The problem of escaping coal ash is particularly tense for Duke Energy. In February 2014, a coal ash pond at its Dan River Steam Station spilled 82,000 tons of waste over approximately 70 miles of the Dan River. Attorney General also revealed that Duke Energy has been conducting illegal coal ash pollution on nearby waterways since at least 2010. In May 2016, Duke Energy settled $ 102 million in criminal charges. Since then, the company has moved coal ash from waste ponds to safer, lined landfills.
The company has tried to distinguish between the types of waste in the coalfish. Duke Energy said the waste material previously found in the lake and river was a lighter material known as cenospheres – small glassy aluminum and silica beads that remained after coal combustion. The drone video from North Carolina's state regulators also showed cenospheres in the water, but the agency said they were likely trapped in the vegetation and would therefore recover slightly.
However, toxic heavier metals often attach themselves to the cenospheres, and environmental groups argue that the distinction is not significant.
Harrison said Friday that the material coming from the ash ponds of the Sutton factory is covered with toxic metals that pose a serious risk to public health.
"Cenospheres are the lightest form of coalfish," said Harrison, who is temporarily based in North Carolina. "Like coal ash, they are loaded with all these other elements as well, so in that sense they are really no different."
Earthjustice tested Cenospheres last week, which said of three flooded coal ash pits at the HF Lee facility of Duke Energy near Goldsboro, NC, Harrison, as well as sites in the state after Hurricane Matthew in 2016. In both cases He said they tested positive for toxic contaminants.
"For them to say, Cenospheres are not coal ash," he said, "is like a poodle is not a dog saying"