EDEN, N.C. - State environmentalists are demanding Duke Energy stop leaking chemicals into a North Carolina river.
The Department of Environment and Natural Resources issued the mandate Tuesday after it found a second pipe leak in the coal ash basin in Eden.
The spill has sparked outrage from environmentalists and the concern is now turning political.
North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper is taking this opportunity to criticize changes to the state environmental law that the Republican-led legislature passed this year -- a move he said needs to be reversed.
“Clean water is a public safety issue,” Cooper said.
He may be the Democrat who takes on Gov. Pat McCrory in 2016 but he said that's not why he put out a news release Tuesday sharply critical of sweeping changes to environmental laws.
“This could be the tip of the iceberg for spills and leakage and runoff if we don't have the safeguards in place,” Cooper said. “If we don't have the people to make sure they're enforced.”
Despite how the Duke Energy coal ash spill looks, inspectors from both Duke Energy and the state said, for the time being, the water is safe.
“We take samples in the river. We take samples in the river and fish samples. We do surveys and they all show the river is doing fine,” said George Everett with Duke Energy.
But on Tuesday, the United States Fish and Wildlife Service said ash has been found on the bottom of the Dan River 70 miles from the spill and 5 inches deep in some parts, and a gray film has developed on the surface of the river close to Kerr Lake.
“This is a significant problem that we’re having long-term,” Cooper said. “They have a real opportunity to undo the damage they've done and I believe the people will be behind them doing that. We'll just have to see."
State environmental officials said they will test the water to make sure the second leak doesn't affect the drinking water.
They are also investigating any possible criminal charges related to the spill.
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