Duke Energy Corp has agreed to find and remove coal ash that a retired North Carolina power plant spilled into the Dan River, which provides drinking water to two towns in nearby Virginia, U.S. environmental regulators said on Thursday.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will oversee the cleanup, and Duke will reimburse EPA for current and future costs, a statement issued by the EPA said.
On Feb. 2, a 48-inch (122-cm) stormwater pipe beneath a coal ash pond ruptured at the retired Eden coal plant and released between 24 million and 27 million gallons (91 million to 102 million liters) of wastewater and as many as 39,000 tons of coal combustion residue into the Dan river that supplies drinking water to two towns in Virginia.
Coal ash, a byproduct of coal-based power production, contains heavy metals that can contaminate drinking water and harm marine life.
The assessment and cleanup work in North Carolina and Virginia will be subject to approval by EPA and state environmental agencies, the statement said.
"In addition, the Order also requires Duke to reimburse all past EPA response costs, as well as all future oversight costs in connection with the site."
The terms of the Order require that the disposal of coal ash from the spill meet protective disposal standards for landfills, such as synthetic liners, leachate collection systems and groundwater monitoring.
Duke Energy, the country's largest electric power provider, retired the Eden coal plant in 2012. No coal ash has been produced at the site since then. (Reporting by Anupam Chatterjee in Bangalore; Editing by David Gregorio)