Duke study finds toxins downstream from coal ash ponds

By on October 17, 2012

Duke University researchers detected large concentrations of arsenic in a lake that provides drinking water to residents of Charlotte N.C., according to the Charlotte Business Journal.

Samples taken from Mountain Island Lake contained amounts of arsenic up to 25 times the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s maximum allowable concentration for drinking water. The lake is downstream from a coal-fired Duke Energy plant. Researchers suspect that arsenic leeched from a coal ash pond at the plant.

Duke University’s Nicholas School conducted a study of 11 lakes and rivers downstream from coal ash ponds. Each downstream water body had concentrations of toxic elements, like arsenic and selenium.

Coal ash effluents above Mountain Island Lake, Hyco Lake, Mayo Lake and the French Broad River near Asheville, N.C. had the highest concentrations of toxins recorded in the study.

Coal ash comes from smoke stack scrubbers that clean power plant emissions as they exit combustion areas. It’s stored in ponds near plants. There is no monitoring mandate for coal ash ponds because it is not considered a hazardous waste product by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, according to a Duke University press release.

The French Broad River near Asheville, N.C. is among the water bodies discovered to harbor high levels of coal ash contaminants (Credit: Calvin Webster, via Flickr)

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