This is an update on the most recent information regarding the coal ash spill in the Dan River by Duke Energy. I participated in a press conference in the General Assembly building yesterday with the heads of DEQ, Virginia Department of Health, Secretary of Health Dr. William Hazel and affected legislators to get the latest information available on the coal ash spill on the Dan River.. While it appears that the drinking water in South Boston remains safe, I am still following very closely the environmental aspects of this incident, especially on fish and wildlife. It should be noted that the PCB warning issued by the Virginia Department of Health some time ago on catfish over a certain size is still in effect.
The leakage has been stopped, however the repercussions of this spill are not immediately apparent. As for the current incident, while there is no immediate threat to consuming other fish such as crappie, the long term effects are not quite as clear and I would just simply use good common sense when deciding for yourself whether or not to eat it. Any measurable increase in methylmercury in fish would not occur immediately from this spill but could accumulate over time.
I am also concerned about activities such as stirring up the ash on the bottom, swimming in it, and ultimately ingesting contaminated water. Those questions remain unanswered at this point and, again, I would exercise caution when swimming this summer.
Duke Energy is preparing a plan for coal ash recovery from the river bank and could begin today, pending approval by the Army Corp of Engineers.
A public hearing will be held in South Boston on Thursday, time and place to be determined. I encourage anyone with concerns to attend that meeting.
The Virginia Department of Health has posted Frequently Asked Questions concerning the coal ash spill on its website http://www.vdh.virginia.gov/news/pdf/Coal%20Ash%20Release%20Fact%20Sheet.pdf.
Duke Energy information can be found at https://www.duke-energy.com/power-plants/coal-fired/dan-river-response.asp.
The EPA has established a web site which is updated daily: http://www.epaosc.org/site/site_profile.aspx?site_id=9065.
I am staying on top of this and will keep you posted as updates are available.