Wilmington, NC — (RT) Hurricane Florence floodwaters have breached the dam at a retired Duke Energy coal power plant near Wilmington, North Carolina, likely causing a spill of coal ash into Cape Fear River.
Floodwaters topped the earthen dike at the northern side of Sutton Lake on Friday. Water from the south end of the lake is flowing back into the river, Duke Energy spokeswoman Paige Sheehan told AP.
Water has also crested over the steel retaining wall of a coal ash dump on the lake shore, Sheehan said. Duke “can’t rule out” that ash might have spilled into the river.
— Southey Blanton (@southey) September 21, 2018
Gray material that Duke Energy described as “lightweight coal combustion byproducts” was floating on the top of the lake Friday, according to AP.
The 1,100-acre lake near the former L.V. Sutton Power Station is next to a landfill of coal ash residue left over from the plant, which closed in 2013. Coal ash contains a number of toxic metals, such as arsenic and mercury.
By Thursday, the Sutton Lake site had received more than 30 inches (75 cm) of rain from Hurricane Florence. The storm dumped over 8 trillion gallons of rainfall on North Carolina over the past week. The Cape Fear River is still rising, and is expected to crest on Saturday.
Sutton Lake is located upstream and northwest of Wilmington, which has taken the brunt of Hurricane Florence’s impact. South of the city, Duke Energy’s Brunswick nuclear power plant was shut down as the storm approached. Workers cut off by the flooding were supplied by helicopters.