by: Jim Bradley Updated:
CHARLOTTE, N.C. - An unflattering spotlight continues to shine on Charlotte based Duke Energy as the company continues trying to stop a potentially dangerous leak from coal ash pond near the Virginia border.
North Carolina Gov. Pat McCrory visited the site Thursday near the town of Eden where 200 Duke Energy employees were working to plug a broken pipe that has allowed chemical laced sludge to pour into the Dan River.
A Duke spokesman said the company believes the leak will be stopped soon but couldn't offer specifics on when a permanent solution would be found.
The spill has prompted an outcry from environmental groups who have complained about the dangers of coal ash ponds located near drinking water reservoirs.
Four such ponds exist near Charlotte -- two on Mountain Island Lake and one on Lake Norman and another near the Catawba River in Belmont.
Critics said that heavy metals found in coal ash, including lead, arsenic and mercury, could cause health problems in humans.
Several dozen protesters rallied Thursday outside Duke Energy's uptown Charlotte headquarters.
The group chanted slogans and called on Duke Energy to remove coal ash from unlined pits near water supplies.
"We've been involved with legal challenges on the coal ash issue," said Bill Gupton with the North Carolina Sierra Club. "Now, this is the smoking gun that says it’s time to wake up and clean up these coal ash ponds."
Duke Energy struck a conciliatory tone, admitting the spill at its Dan River plant shouldn't have happened.
"Duke Energy takes full responsibility for this accident. We'll be taking a fresh look at all of our ash basins and how we handle that after we fix this pipe," said Duke Energy spokesman Tom Williams.