Coal Ash Spill: A Case Study

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Duke Energy: 3 Coal Ash Spill In 2014, employees from the largest electric company in the United States, Duke Energy, started noticing the spilling of coal ash into the Dan River near Eden, North Carolina. This location is said to have had its coal fired power production units terminated in the spring 2012 (Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation, 2014). The history behind the ash basin at the Dan River begins in 1948 when Duke Energy built a coal-fired power plant in Eden, NC (Rivin, 2015). In order to handle the coal ash, a bi-product of generating electricity from burning coal, Duke Energy built and enlarged ponds to store the coal ash, covering two stormwater pipes. On February 2, 2014, one of the stormwater pipes burst, spilling coal ash into the…show more content…
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reported that it was due to Duke Energy’s negligence and failure to exercise controls over its facilities led to the massive spill (2015). Consequently, in order to resolve the coal ash spill, Duke Energy was first ordered to pay fines amounting to $102 million, $34 million of it being dedicated to environmental projects to benefits wetlands in North Carolina and Virginia (EPA, 2015). The EPA, along with NC and VA state environment agencies, will oversee the cleanup of the Dan River coal ash spill which Duke Energy will be responsible for executing. Once cleanup has been completed, the EPA will assess if there is other contamination that needs to be addressed. All of this activity will be at the expense of Duke Energy. In the longterm, Duke Energy has committed to using resources for safer ash management. This includes using technology to recycle the ash versus simply storing it, which will allow Duke Energy to continue to close its ash basins. The company has stated that it will close all basins in the Carolinas by 2029 (Duke Energy, 2015). Once Duke Energy can shut down all its basins because of leveraging technology to recycle the ash, disasters of this magnitude might be avoided in the future. Although Duke Energy was at fault for this disaster, the company is being held accountable for its actions, resulting in company policies to promote a cleaner
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