NC admits mistake, says arsenic topped safe level

In this Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014 photo, Amy Adams, North Carolina campaign coordinator with Appalachian Voices dips her hand into the Dan River in Danville, Va. as signs of coal ash appear in the river. Duke Energy estimates that up to 82,000 tons of ash has been released from a break in a 48-inch storm water pipe at the Dan River Power Plant in Eden N.C. Over the last year, environmental groups have tried three times to use the federal Clean Water Act to force Duke Energy to clear out leaky coal ash dumps. Each time, the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources has effectively halted the lawsuit by intervening at the last minute to assert its own authority to take enforcement action. In two cases, the state has proposed modest fines but no requirement that the nation’s largest electricity provider actually clean up the coal ash ponds. The third case is pending. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)
In this Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014 photo, Amy Adams, North Carolina campaign coordinator with Appalachian Voices dips her hand into the Dan River in Danville, Va. as signs of coal ash appear in the river. Duke Energy estimates that up to 82,000 tons of ash has been released from a break in a 48-inch storm water pipe at the Dan River Power Plant in Eden N.C. Over the last year, environmental groups have tried three times to use the federal Clean Water Act to force Duke Energy to clear out leaky coal ash dumps. Each time, the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources has effectively halted the lawsuit by intervening at the last minute to assert its own authority to take enforcement action. In two cases, the state has proposed modest fines but no requirement that the nation’s largest electricity provider actually clean up the coal ash ponds. The third case is pending. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — North Carolina’s environmental agency says it was wrong to declare the arsenic levels in the Dan River safe for people after a massive coal ash spill.

The state Department of Environment and Natural Resources said Sunday a water sample taken two days after the spill was four times higher than the maximum level for people to have prolonged contact, such as swimming.

The drinking water from the nearest town downstream has not been affected. Officials say the water treatment plant in Danville, Va., is removing the arsenic and other toxins from the water.

Duke Energy says it permanently plugged the leak Saturday, six days after it was discovered. Duke says up to 82,000 tons of ash from a coal-burning power plant mixed with 27 million gallons of contaminated water escaped.

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