Dam breach retires power plant in North Carolina

Coal byproducts moving into nearby river

Dam breach retires power plant in North Carolina

Floodwaters of Hurricane Florence breached a dam Friday in the state of North Carolina, and forced an energy company to shut its natural gas plant in the area. 

The flooding from the Cape Fear River, in Wilmington, caused breaches in the Cooling Lake Dam, Duke Energy said in a statement, adding it has shut down its 625-megawatt natural gas plant L.V. Sutton. 

Before Duke Energy established a natural gas plant in 2017, the area had a coal-fired power plant until 2013.

Thus, the area still has two coal ash basins from the 1970s, and  7 million tons of coal ash is now at risk of flooding into the river.

"The company believes that ash in the 1971 ash basin remains in place behind a steel wall separating the excavation area from the cooling lake," Duke Energy said.

"Cenospheres are moving from the 1971 ash basin to the cooling lake and into the Cape Fear River," it added.

Cenospheres are lightweight, hollow beads comprised of alumni and silica that are a byproduct of coal combustion, according to the company. 

Due to Hurricane Florence, approximately 50,000 homes and businesses are without power, while 117,000 people are cut off because of flooding.

The latest death toll because of the storm is reported to be 42. 

Moody's Analytics said Monday the hurricane's cost is estimated between $17 billion to $22 billion.