VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) — Local public utility crews say they caught what could have been a disaster.
Utility officials said more than 50,000 tons of coal ash leaked into the Dan River on the North Carolina side, which feeds into Lake Gaston. Virginia Beach, Norfolk and Chesapeake get their water from Lake Gaston, which is west of Roanoke Rapids. However, there were already several safeguards in place that kept the coal ash from making it to your faucet.
The coal ash leak happened at the Duke Energy Power Plant in Eden, North Carolina due to a break in a storm water pipe. 10 On Your Side sat down with Virginia Beach Public Utilities Director Tom Leahy to find out what the city is doing to protect you. Leahy said the city has stopped pumping water from the Lake Gaston intake station until they are sure it’s safe again.
“There is plenty of water in the region locally, and we don’t anticipate a shortage,” said Leahy. “We will not turn the water on until we’re absolutely sure it’s fine.”
Leahy also said there is no way the coal ash could have gotten into Hampton Road’s water supply in a matter of two days. And, it would take at least two months for any of the containment to get to our water supply in Lake Gaston. In the event it did reach Hampton Roads, water supply treatment plants would catch it first.
“Our intake system happens to be on one of the most well protected locations. On that whole system, it would have taken this containment several months to reach us, assuming enough was released to make it down that far,” said Leahy.
Environmental officials are investigating the spill in North Carolina, and treatment plants downstream are checking the water every four hours to make sure its safe. In the meantime , residents in Chesapeake, Norfolk and Virginia Beach will get their water from the Mermaid City reservoirs.
Leahy said the reservoirs have plenty of water, and your water in the affected cities is safe to drink.