On Friday, floodwaters busted the Sutton Lake Dam, which is connected to Duke Energy’s L.V. Sutton Plant in Wilmington, North Carolina. Environmentalists are concerned that the coal ash dump located behind the dam has escaped into the Cape Fear River.
“Keep in mind, Duke sent their samples to their in-house lab. Until you have a third-party analysis, any analysis should be taken with a grain of salt,” said Kemp Burdette of Cape Fear River Watch.
Duke Energy recently reported that arsenic and metal concentrations in the Cape Fear River has been slightly elevated following the Sutton flooding, but noted that there was no indication of coal ash entering the river.
Arsenic is naturally present at high levels in groundwater, and it is highly toxic when in its inorganic form. Duke Energy’s study on the Cape Fear River gave a test result of 1.11 thousandths of a milligram per liter of water. Although this doesn’t come close to reaching the concentration limit set by the state, 50 thousandths of a milligram, it is still higher than normal.
The levels of metals found in the river were more manageable, at 2.2 milligrams per liter on Friday when the dam was breached. Other contaminants found in the river included selenium, chromium, oil and grease; however, Duke noted that the contamination of these chemicals was well below permitted regulatory limits.