Sunday, December 10, 2017

Investigation into N.C. coal ash spill widens

RALEIGH, N.C. — Federal prosecutors widened their investigation triggered by a massive coal ash spill in North Carolina, demanding reams of documents and ordering nearly 20 state environmental agency employees to testify before a grand jury.

The subpoenas were made public by the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources on Wednesday. They also ordered state officials to hand over any records pertaining to investments, cash or other items of value they might have received from Duke Energy or its employees.

Charlotte-based Duke also confirmed it was served with a new subpoena, the second received by the nation's largest electricity provider. Company spokesman Tom Williams declined to discuss it.

On Feb. 2, a pipe running under a coal ash pond collapsed at Duke's Dan River Steam Station in Eden, coating the bottom of the Dan River, near the Virginia border, with toxic ash up to 70 miles downstream.

Meanwhile, state officials said Duke successfully contained "about 90 percent" of the flow from a second pipe at the dump spewing arsenic-laced groundwater into the river.

Public health officials have advised residents not to touch the river water or eat the fish.

State environmental secretary John Skvarla refused to answer when asked at a news media briefing if he had been served with a subpoena. Hours later, Skvarla spokesman Drew Elliot said in an email that his boss had not been served.

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