Oct 1, 2018
At least 2,000 cubic yards of toxic coal ash – enough to fill 180 dump trucks – from a closed power plant may have flowed into flood waters in North Carolina during Hurricane Florence in September. This is what Duke Energy, the company that was responsible for cleaning up that ash, has admitted to – which means the actual level of the contamination may be even higher.
This is a big threat to people living in the area. The ash from a coal-burning power plant contains highly toxic substances such as arsenic, lead and mercury. And the Sutton plant, where the spill happened, is only one of many coal-fired power plants in the storm region that have similar ash pits.
Duke Energy closed down the Sutton plant back in 2013, but has obviously been dragging its feet about moving the ash to safer, lined landfills, as the company was supposed to do. And Duke has a history in such spills. A massive spill from a waste pit at another old Duke plant in Eden, North Carolina, coated 70 miles of the Dan River in gray sludge in 2014. Duke pleaded guilty and paid a fine of 102 million dollars, but federal regulators gave the company until 2029 to move the poisonous ash from unsafe dumps!
Another type of industrial pollution spread by flood waters is animal waste. There are at least 45 large pig and chicken farms in the flood region, which keep the waste of the animals in huge pits. Watchdog organizations have been warning for decades that these pits are not safe from flooding during storms, which then spreads disease to large areas afterwards.
Those affected are poor, working-class communities. First, because industrial plants producing the pollution are always built in or near poor communities in the countryside, or working-class neighborhoods in cities. And secondly, because poor and working-class people don’t have the means to flee flood areas, and don’t have access to health care when disease hits.
All this is avoidable, both before and after a flood. But capitalist society is organized to enable capitalists to maximize their profit, not for the collective good of the whole population.