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article imageFlorence flooding causes hog lagoons to leak and overflow

By Ken Hanly     Sep 19, 2018 in Environment
Fears are growing about Hurricane Florence's pollution risks from hog excrement to toxic coal ash seeping into rivers and also into peoples' homes.
Pollution hazards in North Carolina
North Carolina officials claim that 13 hog lagoons, pits filled with hog waste, had overflowed in North Carolina due to Florence. Dozens more in South Carolina were likely to do so as well. As well, in South Carolina there are 200,000 tons of coal ash that lie in the path of the flooding Waccamaw river. The river is expected to reach a record flood stage this week.
The North Carolina department of environmental quality (NCDEQ) reported on Tuesday that another hog lagoon had overflowed in Duplin Count about 60 miles north of Wilmington.The pork council claimed that an on-site inspection showed that solids remained in the lagoon but did not say what happened to the liquids. NCDEQ said that another 13 lagoons had overtopped meaning they were leaking. Another 30 were said to be likely to overtop. NCDEQ did not say excatly which lagoons had been compromised.
In North Carolina alone there are 3,300 hog lagoons. North Carolina is the second largest hog-farming state in the US. Many of the lagoons are close to rivers and on low-lying land that is currently being flooded by Florence posing a threat to residents and the local environment.
In Goldsboro there are many hog farms along the Neuse river with many roads and homes still under the flood waters. Many local roads have restricted access but it was easy to see the devastation Florence had rained on the area. There was a fetid smell in the air an odor familiar to those living near the hog farms and lagoons.
The Neuse river, runs south-east towards the town of New Bern which has been badly flooded. Tuesday it was still flowing ferociously and there were vast pools of standing water resulting from its flooding. Many businesses and also farmland were under water about 2 feet deep.
The coal-ash threat
Far to the south In Conway South Carolina there are concerns about 200,000 tons of coal ash. This is the waste left over from burning coal at power plants. The ash contains many toxins including mercury and arsenic. The waste is at a decommissioned power station. The Grainger generating station was closed back in 2012. There are concerns that as the Waccamaw river reaches record levels this week it could possibly sweep up and distribute the toxic ash towards the Atlantic.
The South Caroline state-owned electric and water utility, Santee Cooper is rushing to prevent a breach before the Waccamaw's expected peak of 19.9 feet, which is almost 9 ft above the flood level.
Workers have already reinforced the ash pit by placing rocks and sand. They have also dug dikes in an attempt to divert the river water. Should the pit be breached it could have serious results. In 2014 a Duke Energy coal ash pit near Eden, North Carolina leaked 39,000 tons of coal ash into the Dan river. As a consequence 70 miles of river bank was coated with toxic sludge. This caused an estimated $300 million in damage.
New Duke Energy breaches
Reuters reports there have been two coal ash leaks from Duke Energy's retired Sutton Power Plant in Wilmington North Carolina following hurricane Florence according to environmental officials.
One leak was reported last Saturday and another happened late on Sunday according to Reggie Cheatham, director of Environmental Protection Agency's office of Emergency Management in a conference call. The cause of the leaks are as yet unknown and are still being investigated Cheatham said. Candice Knezevic, a Duke spokesperson said: “We are repairing it and we continue to be confident that the public and the environment are well protected.”
In a statement, the company said that in the first release, the site lost almost enough material to fill about two thirds of an Olympic-sized pool.
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