Duke Energy makes big changes to Dan River Steam Station three years after coal ash spill

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EDEN, NORTH CAROLINA (WDBJ7) In February of 2014, tens of thousands of gallons of coal ash spilled into the Dan River in Eden, North Carolina.

The incident made national headlines and contaminated Danville's main water supply

Since then, Duke Energy has been working to prevent the same thing from happening again.

WDBJ7 was the only local station to tour the Dan River Steam Station in Eden on Thursday.

Duke Energy officials told us there's nothing to be concerned about with the water.

After the spill, North Carolina set forth new guidelines, telling plants they couldn't store coal in unlined basins anymore. The state gave companies until August 2019 to make a change.

There are still two coal ash basins, but they won't be there much longer.

"We're taking ash that is stored in a wet environment, unlined ash basin there, and actually moving farther away from the river and storing it in a fully-lined containment system," says Duke Energy spokesman, Jeff Brooks.

The landfill will only be home to coal ash used by the Dan River Station. Nothing else will come into the area.

"You're not gonna see any other types of municipal waste that you'd see in a typical landfill. You're not gonna see material from any other sites coming here," says Brooks.

Duke Energy says it's time for this change, regardless of the spill.

"Natural gas plants are also much more efficient and much cleaner to operate than coal plants and so that also provides an environmental benefit to the state," says Brooks.

As for the Dan River, Duke Energy says they run frequent tests to make sure it isn't contaminated.

"We're very encouraged with the results that we've seen. There have been no impacts that we've been able to measure to fish or aquatic life, actually aquatic life is thriving here. We are committed to the Dan River region not just today, not just tomorrow, but for years and generations to come," says Brooks.

Once all of the coal ash from the basins is moved into the landfill, that giant area will be regraded and seeded. It will be a giant field that Duke Energy says will match the landscape of the river.

This whole project is scheduled to be complete by August of 2019, and officials say they are ahead of schedule.