Nat Geo covers the "kill zone" in Dan River ecosystem

Disaster on the micro-level:

On the Dan, determining the health of low-lying river creatures such as mussels, clams, crawfish and dragonflies will determine the health of the fish in the river, and later, the birds and animals that feed on those fish. The fear, said Brian Williams, also a Dan River Basin Association program manager, is that the entire food chain along the upper Dan could be imperiled by the presence of coal ash and its poisonous heavy metals. (The Dan River stretches some 200 miles; about 70 miles is affected by the spill.)

Already, though, Williams described the river bottom on the Dan a mile or two below the spill as a virtual “kill zone” for macroinvertebrates because of the amount of toxic sludge that’s settled. At the spill site, there is a coal ash bar some five feet thick and 75 feet long. Coal ash has been detected along the river bottom some 70 miles eastward downstream — all the way to the John Kerr Reservoir north of Raleigh.

Even those critters who survive this calamity will absorb toxins and heavy metals, which will form a bioaccumulation chain that will eventually make any fish pulled from the river or Kerr Lake inedible. Or, more precisely, fish that shouldn't be eaten. Humans are also subject to bioaccumulation.

Comments

Breaking: Court orders clean up

That's the first thing

that crossed my mind. I'll bet they will appeal, and then provide "evidence" they're complying anyway, in the hopes a higher court will reverse the decision.

Emergency (mis)management

From Tom Reeder's report to the Environmental Review Commission:

2:00 to 4:00 pm (approx): Duke notices problem in coal ash pond.
•5:30 pm: Duke alerts Eden/Danville/Rockingham County.
•6:00 pm (approx): Duke calls DWR Regional Office (does not speak to anyone because no one is there – does not leave voice mail).
•6:53 pm: Duke calls Division of Emergency Management via Environmental Emergency hotline.
–Call is not relayed to NC DENR.
8:00 am (approx): Duke contacts DWR Regional Office.
•9:00 am (approx): DWR personnel leave for site.
•DWR verifies that downstream public water supplies have been notified.
•4:00 pm: Duke issues press release.
•5:32 pm: DENR issues its own press release.
•DWR staff begin sampling efforts on site.

It's not surprising that Skvarla's "run like a business" DENR would have nobody around on a Sunday afternoon, but it is surprising there wasn't a process/procedure in place for senior officials to be contacted in case of an emergency. As a result, water samples weren't taken until 24 hours+ after the discharge began. Massive fail.