As we continue to follow the repercussions from the Dan River coal ash spill, one of the largest in U.S. history, the more than 80,000 OWASA users in our area can be thankful that the water they drink is not supplied by the Dan River or any of its estuaries.
Alan Rimer, Chair of the OWASA Board of Directors, explained that the non-profit agency serving Chapel Hill and Carrboro draws water from three local supplies: the Cane Creek Reservoir, University Lake and the Quarry Reservoir west of Carrboro.
“We are also fortunate in that we do not have any coal ash storage ponds in our watershed. The only power plant we have is the one on UNC’s campus, which handles their ash, or what ash they used to have, in a totally different manner. It was shipped off-site. So, we are protected all the way around,” Rimer said.
The spill happened on February 2 at a former Duke Energy plant in Eden, North Carolina, when millions of gallons of coal ash and waste water were leaked.
On Tuesday, the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources [DENR] alerted Duke Energy that it was considering changes to its waste water permits for coal ash ponds.
Rimer said that though the coal ash spill does not impact Orange County, there are still lessons to be learned.
In January, thousands of gallons of chemicals contaminated the water supply in Charleston, West Virginia.
Both of these situations, Rimer explained, show the necessity of maintaining properly-working storage outside of chemical tanks in the case of spills.
“If a municipality does not require chemicals that are stored, which could somehow how get into the watershed are properly protected, then you have got a real problem,” he said.
Chemical storage facilities in Orange County comply with federally-mandated regulations by the Environmental Protection Agency, which is enforced by DENR.
“While we do not have a coal ash pile, we do have chemicals that are not dissimilar in their potential to impact our watershed. We look after those very carefully in the county.”
In a WCHL commentary in January, Rimer explained that through the cooperation of local governments, the density and impact of development in our local watersheds are limited by some of the most stringent watershed zoning, streamside buffer requirements, and impervious surface limits in the state. These standards, he said, help to reduce the likelihood of contaminants from reaching area reservoirs.http://chapelboro.com/news/state-news/lessons-learned-dan-river-coal-ash-spill/
CHAPEL HILL- With up to a half inch of ice in the forecast, power outages are a real possibility in the next 24 hours. Duke Energy’s Jennifer Jabon says additional crews are on standby to respond.
“Right now, here in the Carolinas we have approximately 3,400 field workers, and some of those are crews that have come in from other regions,” says Jabon.
The storm bearing down on the Triangle is expected to dump snow, sleet and freezing rain. Jabon warns that falling tree limbs and ice accumulation could bring down power lines.
“Our focus is always on the safety of the customers, so definitely be aware if there’s any downed power lines,” says Jabon. “Don’t touch them, stay away from them, and we ask that you immediately report any downed power lines you see.”
With snow expected to continue through Thursday afternoon, officials say you shouldn’t expect power to be restored right away.
If the power goes out and you’re using a generator to stay warm, remember to operate it outside and keep it away from vents or doors that could draw in carbon monoxide.
If you lose power and can’t stay warm, Orange County Emergency Services will operate a shelter at Smith Middle School at 9201 Seawell School Road in Chapel Hill.
Call 1-800-POWER-ON to report outages, or, if you’re a Duke Energy Progress customer call 1-800- 419-6356.http://chapelboro.com/news/weather/plan-power-outages-ice-storm-approaches/
CHARLOTTE – The merger between Duke Energy and Progress Energy has combined two utilities under one name, but the operations of the company remain as two units.
Duke Energy spokesperson Jeff Brooks says, while it’s a possibility that one day the company will merge the entire function of the two utilities into one, the main focus now is on bringing the internal operations together.
“We have Duke Energy Carolinas in the western half of the state and then Duke Energy Progress—which is the former Progress Energy footprint—that serves customers in the eastern half of the state and Asheville,” Brooks says.
Duke Energy now serves 3.2 million customers in 83 of the state’s 100 counties and is the nation’s largest utility company.
Brooks says it helps to remember that if you were a customer of Duke Energy before the merger, you’re still under the Duke Energy utility; if you were a Progress Energy customer, you are now under the Duke Energy Progress utility.
He says a major positive to the merger is the distribution of electricity.
“We, for example, now jointly dispatch our generation fleet—so in other words, our power plants,” Brooks says. “Even though they belong to the two separate utilities, we think of them as one fleet in the way that we dispatch them day-to-day to support customer needs.”
Brooks says the company has recognized the growing pains. He says one of the biggest problem areas is in the reporting of power outages.
“Outage reporting has been one area where we’ve seen some instances of customers getting confused as to which system they should use,” Brooks says. “But the main thing that helps is if they go to duke-energy.com, for the customer it will ask them where are you located? So it will ask them to enter their service address, or they can select which area they’re in, and once they do that, it can remember where they were when they come back to the sites.”
Duke Energy provides customer service for both utilities for questions about billing and payments, moving service, outages, and other topics.
CHAPEL HILL – The driver who knocked out two power poles causing power outages for 350 Orange County residents was less than half a mile from his home, according to Chapel Hill Police.
Public Information Lt. Josh Mecimore says 23-year-old Franklin Dalina Goncalves was charged with Driving While Impaired after losing control of his vehicle just three tenths of a mile from his residence.
“The estimated damage to the car was $10,000,” Lt. Mecimore says. “It was a 2004 Acura, so that’s probably a good bit of the value of the car. They estimated the damage to Duke Power’s equipment at $10,000, too.”
Goncalves’ address is listed as 1250 Ephesus Church Road which is The Park at Chapel Hill Apartment community. The police report shows that he took a turn too fast; his vehicle jumped the curb and lost traction.
“It’s possible that there may have been an additional citation related to the driving: speeding or careless and reckless or something like that,” Lt. Mecimore says. “But as far as the charges that he was taken before the magistrate on, it was just the DWI.”
Two power poles were taken out by the incident, but Lt. Mecimore says the evidence didn’t point to Goncalves hitting both of them.
“I think the second was brought down by the weight…or maybe the stress from the wires coming down from that pole,” Lt. Mecimore says. “So, it doesn’t look like it actually struck both.”
Goncalves was released on a written promise to appear in court by the Orange County magistrate. His court date is set for January 6 in Hillsborough.
For more on the outage, click here.http://chapelboro.com/news/crime/driver-caused-blackout-almost-home/
CHARLOTTE – The Duke Energy Progress merger is at the heart of power outage confusion for Orange County customers Sunday.
Though all customers are now under one company name, remnants of the separate entities are lingering.
After the initial blast of outages caused by the 4:00 a.m. car accident that took out two power poles Sunday, approximately 350 customers remained without power. The outage lasted for more than 12 hours, and power was fully restored at 8:20 p.m.
If you logged on to Duke-Energy to check the outage and clicked the region of North Carolina that included OrangeCounty—the former Progress Energy region which is highlighted in green—you wouldn’t see any outages being reported. However, if you clicked the Duke Energy region (highlighted in blue), you would have seen the outages reported for Orange County.
A Duke Energy media spokesperson says you will have to continue to use the website that way until the company completes the merge of its back end functions.
The Duke-Progress merger was announced in 2011 and was completed July 2, 2012. Duke Energy Progress is now the nation’s largest regulated utility and serves approximately seven million customers in six states.
Photo courtesy of Chapel Hill Public Library director Susan Brown.
UPDATE: At around 11:00 a.m. Sunday, Duke Energy’s website reported (incorrectly) that the power outage was over. Chapel Hill Police, however, issued this statement: ”Pike Electric mentioned that residents and businesses in the affected area…will be without power up until 9 PM. They will have to shut down all power for a one hour time span in order to get everything back up and running. It may be as late as midnight before power is restored to the entire affected area.”
UPDATE: Power was restored shortly before noon to (at least some) homes in the Colony Lake area, near the Sage/Fordham intersection.
UPDATE: Shortly after noon, a Duke Energy spokesperson told WCHL that power had been restored to many Duke customers, but about 350 were still affected. (Corroborating the earlier report from Chapel Hill Police, she said those customers were likely to remain without power until at least early evening.)
CHAPEL HILL – An early-morning single-car accident on Sunday brought down a telephone pole near the intersection of Ephesus Church Road and Legion Road, knocking out power to hundreds of Chapel Hillians.
The accident occurred shortly after 4:00 a.m. According to a statement from Chapel Hill Police, the driver actually ran into several telephone poles before coming to a stop.
All photos courtesy of Susan Brown.
Duke Energy initially reported more than 2,000 customers were without power. Homes in Briarcliff, Ridgefield, Colony Lake and other nearby neighborhoods remained without power for hours, as crews worked to restore service. Several stoplights were out along 15/501 between Elliott Road and Sage Road; Chapel Hill Police set up emergency signage at those intersections.
The driver of the vehicle – still not identified by CHPD – was not injured in the crash, but was arrested for driving while impaired. It’s not clear whether the accident was related in any way to Sunday morning’s heavy rain.
UPDATE: Crews are installing a new pole. Photo below, also courtesy Susan Brown:
NEW HILL – Duke Energy’s nuclear power plant just south of the Triangle has found its second flaw this year.
WRAL reports that the Shearon Harris plant was shut down Nov. 9 for refueling during which time an ultrasonic inspection found a microscopic crack in a nozzle.
A Duke Energy representative said the public is in no danger due to the flaw.
Shearon Harris is located 25 miles southeast of Chapel Hill.http://chapelboro.com/news/health/shearon-harris-plant-finds-second-flaw-year/
CHAPEL HILL - Katie Gulledge and Bill Melega were selected to participate in a transatlantic teacher scholars program.
Gulledge from McDougle Middle and Bill Melega from Chapel HillHigh School were identified for their background in teaching and innovation, and chosen to participate in this international training.
The Transatlantic Teachers Scholars Program will engage twelve teachers from North Carolina and Virginia in a year-long training program that will bring narratives and events from a contested landscape to life. One of the focuses this year will be on the Meuse-ArgonneAmericanCemetery and the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of WWI.
The training includes a series of blended courses, culminating with a trip to Verdun, France in July 2014.
Duke Energy begins selective herbicide treatment on much of the low-lying vegetation in OrangeCounty the week of Sept. 23.
This work is part of Duke Energy’s system-wide vegetation maintenance program. The work includes low volume back pack herbicide applications in non-maintained rights of way. The herbicide will target sapling species that could interfere with power interruptions in the future. Some of the targeted vegetation include: woody stems, leaving grasses, and wildflowers.
Applications are not performed in areas maintained by property owners.
Hillsborough Town Board members approved a special use permit last Monday that will allow a Tractor Supply Company store to be built on NC 86 near Interstate 85.
Tractor Supply, based out of Charlotte, will construct the 19,000 square foot store with an outdoor sales area and parking lot. Currently the property is vacant and has the opportunity to support local area farmers.
With the special permit approved, the partners will continue the permitting process and may break ground by the end of the year.http://chapelboro.com/news/news-around-time/32630/
CHAPEL HILL – You might have received an email recently from Duke Energy warning about scammers targeting the company’s customers.
Spokeswoman Kristina Hill says this scam has been targeting not only Duke Energy customers, but utility companies across the country for the last several months.
“What we saw with Duke Energy is that the targets really weren’t slowing down,” Hill says.
Occasionally, the company may call customers to discuss their account, Hill explained. If it is a legitimate Duke Energy call, a representative will provide information that only the customer and Duke Energy would know.
Hill says there are several red flags that customers should guard against.
“If you get an unsolicited phone call from an individual who falsely claims to be with Duke Energy, and they threaten immediate service disconnection within one hour, that’s one red flag,” Hill says.
Hill says Duke Energy customers who have delinquent accounts receive multiple notifications from the company over the course of several weeks prior to power service disconnection. She says it is never just a single notification one hour before disconnection.
In some cases, the scammer can manipulate the customer’s caller identification and display Duke Energy’s name or phone number as the party calling. They will then ask customers to purchase a prepaid debit card to avoid service disconnection. Hill says Duke Energy will never ask customers to settle an account balance through a prepaid debit card.
In response to the increase in scamming incidents, Hills says Duke Energy stepped up its campaign in August to educate customers about the issue through radio ads, messages on statements, and email alerts.
If you do receive a call which you believe is from a scammer, you should hang up and call local police, then Duke Energy to report the call and check your account balance at 1-800-777-9898.
For more information on how to recognize a scam, click here.
Photo courtesy of Nimur
NEW HILL – Equipment malfunction at the Shearon Harris nuclear plant in New Hill—just more than 25 miles southeast of Chapel Hill—set off alarms at around 3:00 a.m. Thursday; the plant’s owner, Duke Energy, reports no radioactive material has leaked.
The alert was cancelled at around 5:00 a.m.
The reported equipment failure resulted in the loss of power to non-safety related equipment. As a precaution, emergency response facilities were being put in place early Thursday morning. There are also sirens set up in a ten-mile planning zone around the plant. Duke Energy officials said crews were standing by to activate those if needed and that they do not expect the situation to get any worse.
This is the second incident since May at the Shearon Harris plant when a microscopic crack was found in one of the plant’s reactors forcing it to be shut down and repaired in early June.http://chapelboro.com/news/safety/shearon-harris-nuclear-plant-on-alert-early-thursday/