Commentary: Toxic coal ash, rancid hog waste, and fetid sewage spill across Carolinas in wake of Florence
By Walter Einenkel
Reports of the massive flooding going on in the wake of Hurricane Florence continue to filter in. How the Carolinas’ infrastructure holds up to this climate changing flooding is being watched closely by environmental groups, as many of the big business industries in the area have had a long and recent history of cutting safety corners and paying off officials to look the other way. For decades people have warned that Duke Energy and its coal ash ponds, the waste from their industrial plants, shouldn’t be housed near waterways. Lacking regulations and covering up the science of pollution from these waste sites have led to years of cascading lawsuits against the energy giant—telling them to clean up their act. ABC News reports that Duke Energy says at least “2,000 cubic yards of ash were displaced at the L. V. Sutton Power Station outside Wilmington.”
The company has not yet determined whether the weir that drains the lake was open or if contamination may have flowed into the Cape Fear River. That's roughly enough ash to fill 180 dump trucks.
Oil and gas interests have a history of under reporting their short-sighted infrastructural issues, so we will see how this plays out in the days to come as there are numerous coal ash ponds dealing with Florence’s rains. The good news is that this plant has been under clean up for five years now.
The coal-fired Sutton plant was retired in 2013 and the company has been excavating millions of tons of ash from old waste pits and removing it to safer, lined landfills constructed on the property. The gray ash left behind when coal is burned contains toxic heavy metals, including arsenic, lead and mercury.
Poultry farms, where chicken manure and urine contains ammonia and other pollutants, have also been inundated by Florence. Sanderson Farms reportedMonday that 60 of its broiler houses had flooded, killing an estimated 1.7 million chickens, and it said it hadn't been able to reach 30 other farms. The North Carolina Department of Agriculture reported Tuesday that at least 3.4 million chickens and turkeys and 5,500 hogs had died in the storm in that state.
The reason us “bleeding hearts” want strong regulatory agencies is not so that big businesses can’t make money. It’s because big businesses only care about money and have proven time and time again, that making money will trump any and all safety to everything else in their way.
Editor's note:This article was originally run at the Daily Kos, which stipulates that its "content may be used for any purpose without explicit permission unless otherwise specified."