EDEN, NC – Recognizing the grave risks that coal ash poses to our health and our environment, the NC NAACP and Forward Together Moral Movement will join with environmental and health experts to better understand and educate ourselves about the harm caused by the Dan River spill and by Duke Energy’s other coal ash ponds at a Moral Monday Town Hall held today, March 17 in Eden, NC.
After a metal pipe from a Duke Energy coal ash pond broke at the Dan River Power Station on Feb. 2, 39,000 tons of toxic ash poured into the river, leaving a thick coat of sludge along the riverbed for 70 miles downstream.
“Environmental groups had raised the alarm about these uncovered coal ash ponds long before the February spill on the Dan River, and yet the NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources continually refused to make Duke Energy take any actions to protect the people from this dangerous ash,” said Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II, president of the North Carolina NAACP. “Access to clean, safe drinking water is a fundamental human right. This coal ash spill is an ecological disaster and a sin.”
Coal ash is incredibly toxic and includes arsenic, lead and mercury, among other harmful substances. Living next to a coal ash pond is more dangerous than smoking a pack of cigarettes a day, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. The cancer risk for those people who drink water tainted with arsenic from coal ash climbs to more than 2000 times the EPA recommendation for safe exposure. Downstream from the Feb. 2 spill, the Dan River has twice tested high for arsenic over the past six weeks.
“The people who are so often harmed by these environmental disasters and toxic pollution are often the people who are so marginalized politically and economically that they do not have a seat at the table in these conversations,” Dr Barber said. “African Americans, Latinos, the poor – these communities are the ones who see the brunt of the pollution, the health risks and the environmental damage. These issues of poverty, of voting rights, of environmental justice, of racism are all tied together and interconnected.”
People of color make up close to 25 percent of the residents living within two miles of the Dan River Power Station and adjacent to where the spill occurred. Duke has two other coal ash ponds located in predominantly communities of color. Nationwide, more than 70 percent of coal ash ponds are located in communities with income below the national median.
Duke would have everyday North Carolinians pay the price for polluting our water with our health, particularly those in the state’s poorest communities, and with the state’s long-term ecological sustainability. Just last week, the CEO of Duke Energy said that Duke’s customers would foot the bill for most of the company’s efforts to move its other coal ash ponds away from water sources and to prevent other spills like the one on the Dan River – a price tag that could run into hundreds of millions of dollars.
“The NC NAACP, the Forward Together Moral Movement and its environmental allies believe that enough is enough,” Dr. Barber said. “At the Moral Monday Town Hall on March 17, we will educate ourselves on coal ash ponds and think strategically about how to protect our state’s most vulnerable from toxic exposure – and about how to prevent future Duke Energy coal ash spills.”
WHO: The NC NAACP and the Forward Together Moral Movement
WHAT: Moral Monday Town Hall
WHEN: Monday, March 17, 2014 from 6 pm – 7:30 pm
WHERE: United Church Ministries, 211 N. Oakland St, Eden, NC 27288
Don’t forget to check out the event flyer HERE!
Founded in 1909, the NAACP is the nation’s oldest and largest civil rights organization. Its members throughout the United States and the world are the premier advocates for civil rights in their communities. The NC Conference of NAACP Branches is 70 years old this year and is made up of over 100 Adult, Youth and College NAACP units across the state, convenes more than 160 members of the Historic Thousands on Jones Street (HKonJ) People’s Assembly Coalition, and is the architect of the Moral Monday & Forward Together Movement.