Floodwaters from Florence breached the dam of a large lake used by a Duke Energy power plant and now coal ash may be spilling into a nearby river.
On Friday, the company said floodwaters from the Cape Fear River breached the cooling lake dam at its plant in Wilmington, North Carolina. Floodwaters also overtopped a retaining wall on one of the large coal ash dumps that surrounds the lake. So, its contents are spilling into the cooling lake and then into the river.
In 2013, Duke Energy switched from coal-burning operations at this location to natural gas. Last year, it finished tearing down the coal-fired plant but at the time about 7 million tons of coal ash remained on site.
Coal ash is a toxic byproduct created by burning coal. It contains mercury, arsenic and other heavy metals.
As of Friday evening, Duke Energy said staff and engineering experts were working on repair plans to fix the recent damn breach.