The Christian Science Monitor Weekly

Vol 106 / Issue 20

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focus: EnvironmEnt By Noelle Swan / Staf writer EdEn, n.C.; and danvillE, va. B en Adkins grew up on North Carolina's Dan River. "This place was where I first knew God was real," Mr. Adkins drawls, gazing down at a narrow segment of the river known as Draper Landing. That's where he learned to fish and swim as a boy, where he first felt a spiritual connection to nature, he says. Gesturing toward his 2-year-old son, Benson, he adds, "I was planning on teaching him how to fish and swim right here, too. "Now, I wouldn't let my dog come in here," Adkins adds. Less than two months earlier, a storm pipe underneath an unlined coal ash basin two miles upstream from Draper Landing ruptured and spewed more than 30,000 tons of coal ash into the Dan. The plume of gray sludge spread 70 miles downstream, depositing toxins along the way. The accident occurred less than a month after a broken storage tank in West Virginia leaked 10,000 gallons of a foaming agent used to wash coal into the Elk River. Some 300,000 residents were warned not to use their tap water for anything but flushing for five days. Both of these insults to waterways were un- intentional. In fact, in each case, it was a by- product of processes designed to benefit the environment by reducing air pollution. While clean air regulations have greatly re- duced the amount of toxic pollutants floating on the wind, some toxic substances are now find- ing their way into American waterways – not only through accidental releases, but during routine operations as well. In terms of volume, coal ash – the culprit in the Dan River spill – is the second largest form of waste generated in the United States (mu- nicipal garbage is No. 1). At one time, coal ash shot out of smoke- stacks all over the country, until the adoption of the Clean Air Act in 1970, which forced Toxic coal ash, a byproduct of the push for cleaner air, has regulators looking for answers. Toxic muck: Wet coal ash is seen on someone's hand next to the Dan River, which flows through North Carolina and Virginia. Duke Energy spilled 30,000 tons of it upstream. GErry BroomE/aP VNEXT PAGE Much of the US's electricity comes from burning coal. One result: Coal ash is second only to municipal garbage in terms of waste by volume. Should it be federally regulated? Turned into concrete? All options have proponents; each carries a cost. WHY IT MATTERS V Troubling threat to US rivers 18 The ChrisTian sCienCe MoniTor Weekly | april 7, 2014

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