Virginia Beach continues to monitor impact from coal ash spill

Posted at 8:31 PM, Feb 10, 2014
and last updated 2014-02-10 20:31:45-05

Virginia Beach, Va. (WTKR) - Communities in Hampton Roads are keeping a close eye on the impact of a coal ash spill into the Dan River in North Carolina.

The spill happened upstream from the Kerr Reservoir, which feeds into Lake Gaston. A pipeline from Lake Gaston, in addition to some local reservoirs, provides drinking water for Chesapeake, Norfolk and Virginia Beach.

"Whatever happens in Kerr Reservoir certainly can happen in Lake Gaston," explained Virginia Beach Public Utilities Director Tom Leahy.

"As soon as we heard about the accident – we shut the project down. That was really just for an abundance of caution," he continued.

Leahy says the shutdown is the first for a spill in the 16-year history of the pipeline. However, Virginia Beach has extensively studied the impact of spills including models and simulations.

He showed NewsChannel 3 one simulation of a Uranium mining spill that allows the city to draw conclusions about the coal ash spill.

"From that we could draw certain conclusions – one of which is nothing from that spill would have possibly reached the main body of the lake for at least a month. The progression upstream would have taken 1-2 months, so we were very confident that nothing at all had entered or even had the chance to enter into our intake," Leahy explained.

Still, Virginia Beach is being abundantly cautious. Independent water samples are being taken at two sites and Leahy says the pipeline won't start flowing again until they are confident there will be no risk.

"At this point in time under these weather conditions we might not need this pipeline til June," Leahy explained.