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PNS Daily Newscast - August 12, 2020 

Former VP Joe Biden picks Sen. Kamala Harris as his running mate; some schools have science-based metrics for open classroom instruction.

2020Talks - August 12, 2020 

California Sen. Kamala Harris will be on the ticket with Joe Biden in November. Four states had primaries yesterday, and two had runoffs. Georgia and Wisconsin appear to have improved since last time.

Coal Ash Spill Anniversary: Could It Happen in NC?

Photo: Kingston, TN Coal Ash Spill, Dec. 22, 2008. Courtesy:
Photo: Kingston, TN Coal Ash Spill, Dec. 22, 2008. Courtesy:
December 19, 2013

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Memories of the Kingston, Tennessee, coal ash spill may have faded five years later, but its environmental impact has not.

People living near the site continue to find unsafe levels of uranium and other toxic metals in their well water.

While the site of one of the worst environmental disasters in history is 100 miles from the western border of North Carolina, the threat of a similar incident happening here is real, contends Rick Gaskins, executive director of the Catawba Riverkeeper Foundation.

"There are reasons to question the stability of the foundation for these dikes,” he says. “The ash ponds around here, we've got some that are 80-feet-high earthen dams."

There are 14 coal-fired power plants in North Carolina, generating 5.5 million tons of coal ash every year.

The ash is stored in unlined ponds that have been linked to 13 confirmed cases of water contamination, according to the North Carolina Conservation Network.

Gaskin says while environmental regulations require garbage dumps to be lined to protect toxic seepage, coal ash ponds do not face the same requirement.

Gaskins adds five years later, not much has changed when it comes to preventive policies to keep another Kingston disaster from happening again.

"I've seen very little change, really, after that,” he stresses. “There seems to be an attitude, 'Well, that can't happen here,' or 'That's not exactly the same as our situation.'"

Asheville is home to the oldest coal ash dam at its Progress Energy plant, built in 1964. It was the only coal ash impoundment in the country to receive a poor rating in 2009.

Stephanie Carroll Carson, Public News Service - NC