2014-03-22 / Front Page

‘We need a lot more information’

Blalock seeks meeting with city council, Duke Energy regarding coal ash info
By tim chandler
Courier-Times editor

“We need a lot more information.”

Those were among the words from Person County Commissioner Frances Blalock following a recent meeting with former Congressman Brad Miller concerning the recent Duke Energy coal ash spill into the Dan River.

Miller recently requested a meeting with representatives from Yanceyville and Roxboro. Roxboro Mayor Merilyn Newell, Blalock, Roxboro City Manager Stephen Steese and Assistant City Manager Tommy Warren attended the meeting on behalf of Roxboro and Person County, according to Blalock.

The meeting, Blalock said, “was concerning the recent coal ash spill and some actions [Miller] is planning to take to hold Duke Energy accountable for this spill and its potential contamination of a drinking water source.

“[Miller’s] intent is to hold Duke to cleaning up the spill without passing the expense on to customers,” Blalock added. “He stressed the need to initiate some type of litigation to make sure this happens.”

When noting that more information was needed following the recent meeting, Blalock pointed out that, “Even the group of people at our meeting were giving varying reports.”

Blalock made a recommendation to county commissioners at their Monday meeting to hold a joint meeting with Roxboro City Council and Duke Energy officials “to help educate us with factual information, not opinions.

“We need information about not only the spill results, but on issues that could face us from the coal ash that is stored in ponds, lagoons and landfills,” Blalock said. “We have been made aware of the failure of Duke Energy to get stormwater permits. These violations, along with the coal ash spill, have been covered by many news sources almost daily.”

Commissioners voted to have a joint meeting with city officials on the matter, and also to discuss the Person County Senior Center. No date for that joint meeting has been set.

Blalock said Newell suggested requesting that Duke Energy District Manager Tanya Evans, as well as environmental experts, attend the joint meeting with commissioners and city council to help provide scientific clarity on the coal ash spill and its cleanup and effects.

“The issue for Roxboro is what will be the result of intaking water from the Dan River for a future water supply for Roxboro,” Blalock said. “The overall county concern is what is happening from stormwater runoff into the lakes and what is happening to groundwater from unlined coal ash ponds and air quality from coal ash landfills.”

At Monday’s meeting, Blalock told commissioners that citizens “look to our two government boards to know what is happening in our county.” In requesting the joint meeting with city council, Blalock said she also would like to schedule a tour of the Duke Energy sites in Person County at Hyco Lake and Mayo Lake.

“After reading the article in Wednesday’s edition of The Courier-Times, I am aware that this is a situation that requires constant monitoring to insure the safety of those who may use the water from the Dan River,” Blalock said.

The story Blalock referenced in Wednesday’s C-T noted that the state’s latest batch of water quality samples collected downstream of the Dan River coal ash spill show that levels of aluminum and iron continue to drop compared to samples collected last month, although aluminum still exceeds state surface water standards at all locations.

The state has been testing the water in the Dan River for up to 28 heavy metals. Initial tests taken in the days after the spill showed levels of several heavy metals – arsenic, aluminum, copper and iron – were above surface water quality standards. But arsenic and copper levels dropped and have remained within surface water quality standards, except for Feb. 20- 21 during high flows possibly caused by a winter storm.

At that time, copper was above the state standard at two sampling locations, the Virginia Line and Milton. Mercury concentrations also exceeded state standards at those locations on Feb. 19-20; however, mercury was within state standards on Feb. 21.

The latest samples collected March 5 show iron is within state surface water quality standards at all three locations downstream of the Dan River spill in Eden.

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