The states environmental agency on Monday began collecting fish in the Dan River to determine if they are safe to eat following the Feb. 2 spill of up to 39,000 tons of coal ash.
The N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources says it typically takes more than a few weeks for pollutants to accumulate in fish tissue. The fish collected this week will be tested and compared to fish sampled in about a month, then six months and then a year for the presence of coal ash metals.
Specimens will be collected upstream from Duke Energys coal ash plant in Rockingham County, and at three locations downstream, including at the headwaters of Kerr Lake, about 65 miles north of Raleigh. The state has advised people not to eat fish from the river, and to avoid prolonged contact with the water.
Duke continued permanently plugging the two storm water pipes beneath the coal ash basin with grout over the weekend. The energy company says it has not yet been able to remove a 300-cubic yard deposit of ash in the river near the spill, because of rain and snow melt causing the river to run higher and faster.