August 15, 2016 2:16 pm -

Megan Davies is quitting her job of seven years and giving up a salary of $188,000.

The story begins in 2014, when a Duke Energy power plant spilled 40,000 tons of toxic coal ash and 27 million gallons of wastewater into the Dan River. The ash is a byproduct of burning coal, and it’s harmful to people and ecosystems, containing silica, mercury, cadmium, and arsenic.

In the aftermath of the spill, public concern grew over Duke’s 32 coal ash storage sites around the state. Many of them were revealed to be unprotected, sitting in unlined basins — just heaps of coal ash in giant pits, leaching toxic elements and a carcinogen called hexavalent chromium into the water table.


Soon after, hundreds of households near the storage sites were told by state officials not to drink from their wells due to concerns over water quality. In April 2015, Duke Energy began providing bottled water to those homes.

The do-not-drink order, however, didn’t last. A year after warning residents that their well water wasn’t safe, representatives from the state’s Department of Environmental Quality and the Department of Health and Human Services changed their minds, writing to the impacted households that their water was actually fine.

Testing, however, showed that well water near the coal ash sites still had levels of hexavalent chromium higher than in the municipal water supply. And Duke Energy, it turned out, had lobbied the state to reverse the do-not-drink order, even though nothing about most of the storage sites had changed. There were still unlined coal ash sites dotting the state, and there were still toxins in the water.



D.B. Hirsch
D.B. Hirsch is a political activist, news junkie, and retired ad copy writer and spin doctor. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.