Swollen NC rivers swamp dumps, raising water pollution fears

A hog farm is inundated with floodwaters from Hurricane Florence near Trenton, N.C., Sunday, Sept. 16, 2018. (AP Photo/Steve Helber), The Associated Press

As rain from Florence continued to lash the Carolinas, the region’s swollen rivers were beginning to swamp coal ash dumps and low-lying hog farms Sunday, raising pollution concerns.

Duke Energy said the collapse of a coal ash landfill at the L.V. Sutton Power Station near Wilmington, North Carolina, is an “on-going situation,” with an unknown amount of potentially contaminated storm water flowing into a nearby lake. At a different power plant near Goldsboro, three old coal ash dumps capped with soil were inundated by the Neuse River.

An Associated Press photographer who flew over eastern North Carolina on Sunday saw several flooded hog farms along the Trent River. It wasn’t immediately clear if any animals remained inside the long metal buildings ringed by dark water.

Such farms typically have large pits filled with hog urine and feces that can cause significant water contamination if breached or overtopped by floodwaters. State environmental regulators said Sunday they had not yet received any reports of spills.

An AP analysis of location data from hog waste disposal permits shows there are at least 45 active North Carolina farms located in 100-year and 500-year floodplains at risk of being inundated by nearby streams and rivers.

Federal forecasters predicted several rivers would crest at record or near-record levels by Monday, with high water potentially remaining for days. Officials with the N.C. Park Council, and industry trade group, said farmers had prepared for the storm by lowering water levels in their waste ponds and moving animals to higher ground.

At the Sutton plant, Duke spokeswoman Paige Sheehan said Sunday that a full assessment of how much ash escaped from the water-slogged landfill can’t occur until the rain stops. She said there was no indication that contaminants from Sutton Lake had drained into the nearby Cape Fear River. 09-17-18

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