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Duke Energy done dredging coal ash from NC river

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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) -  Federal environmental officials say Duke Energy has completed removal of large pockets of coal ash from the Dan River following a massive spill at a North Carolina power plant.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's on-scene coordinator, Myles Bartos, said Thursday that Duke had dredged up about 2,500 tons of ash and contaminated sediment, as well as another 500 tons that had accumulated in settling tanks at downstream municipal water treatment plants in Virginia.

Coal ash contains an array of toxic heavy metals such as arsenic, mercury and selenium.

Duke estimates about 39,000 tons of coal ash spewed into the Dan after a drainage pipe collapsed Feb. 2, turning the river gray for more than 70 miles. Bartos says the cleanup is considered complete, though Duke has recovered only a fraction of the total spilled.

Bartos said recent testing of both the river water and bottom sediment has shown concentrations of toxic metals below federal limits and close to what was likely present before the spill. State and federal agencies will continue to monitor the long-term environmental health of the river.

Bartos said if more large deposits of contamination are later discovered, Duke will be required to remove them.

Headquartered in Charlotte, Duke is the nation's largest electricity company. In past statements to investors, executives have said they do not expect costs incurred from the cleanup effort to be large enough to affect the $50 billion company's profitability.

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