Environment

Another day, another leak from a coal ash basin

Duke Energy estimates the amount of water leaking from a pipe at the Allen Steam Station would fill one coffee cup per minute. (Photo: Creative Commons)

An undocumented metal pipe is leaking water from a closed coal ash basin at the Allen Steam Station, Duke Energy told state regulators Wednesday. The Allen Steam Station is near Belmont in Gaston County.

WBTV in Charlotte broke the story yesterday, noting that it was the Catawba Riverkeeper Sam Perkins who alerted Duke Energy to the leak.

From the WBTV story:

… Sam Perkins, the Catawba Riverkeeper who first alerted Duke employees to the pipe during last week’s site visit, said his concern was not as much with the water leak as with the pipe itself.

“This was a corrugated metal pipe that took us 20 minutes to find but the Duke personnel didn’t know what it was, they didn’t have a record of it,” Perkins said. “This is a pipe that is not in any of their records in their storm water permitting or their waste water permitting.”

The story quotes Erin Culbert, a spokeswoman for Duke Energy, as saying  the amount of water found to be leaking from the corrugated metal pipe amounted to roughly a coffee-cup size leak every minute.

That’s equivalent to about 8 ounces a minute, or 90 gallons a day, which would fill a medium-size aquarium.

The pipe was inspected twice in 2016, most recently as part of a required seeps inspection this fall, either in October or November. Inspectors did not find any water discharge during the fall inspection, she told WBTV.

The NC Department of Environmental Quality is investigating the leak  and waiting for test results. WBTV reported that Duke Energy sent a letter to state regulators, saying testing showed elevated levels of boron “consistent with groundwater samples at the plant.”

Boron is naturally occurring in the environment, such as in oceans, rocks and volcanos, but coal-fired power plants are a main manmade source. The state groundwater standard for boron is 700 parts per billion. There is no federal standard for boron in drinking water.

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