Duke Energy Corp. has agreed to pay $2.5 million as part of a proposed settlement with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) over its 2014 coal ash spill that flooded the Dan River with 39,000 tons of toxic waste.
The settlement, one of the largest the agency has ever proposed, designates $2.25 million for environmental projects benefiting Virginia communities harmed by the spill. The remaining $250,000 will be deposited in a fund that state regulators tap to cover expenses involved in responding to environmental emergencies.
“This order is a significant step forward in Virginia’s efforts to protect our communities and natural resources following the coal ash spill,” DEQ Director David K. Paylor said in an agency statement. “It also ensures that Duke is held fully accountable for the impact of this incident.
“One of DEQ’s top goals has been to make sure that the local communities and the Commonwealth are made whole. This order is the next step in the process.”
The spill occurred Feb. 2, 2014 at a Duke facility in Eden, N.C., when a storm water pipe beneath a coal ash storage pond collapsed, releasing nearly 40,000 tons of coal ash waste into the Dan River, along with some 25 million gallons of waste water from the ash impoundment system. The toxic waste flowed downriver for about 80 miles, settling out in varying depths in the river and inside the Kerr Reservoir in Virginia.
The Virginia DEQ and several other state and federal agencies have been monitoring the Dan River since the spill. The agency said it will need to monitor and assess water quality, sediments, and fish populations for at least the next to two to four years, as environmental pollution can sometimes take years to fully manifest and understand.
In February, Duke Energy, the largest electric utility in the U.S., announced it would pay $102 million to settle federal criminal charges in connection with Clean Water Act violations at several of its North Carolina facilities.