Danville Mayor Sherman Saunders said Wednesday that the city of Danville is “not taking lightly” the situation created by the coal ash spill into the Dan River from Duke Energy’s shuttered plant in Eden, N.C.
He pledged that the city would continue to monitor the situation, saying, “Our focus is on facts, and our decisions on safety for our citizens will be based on just that.”
“The City of Danville is very much aware of the concerns raised from the Duke Energy ash spill,” Saunders said. “City Council members are concerned and are being kept abreast of matters as they develop, including actions by state and federal officials.”
The mayor and other members of council attended the information session held by Duke Energy on Feb. 7 in Danville and the community briefing conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency on Tuesday in Danville.
The meeting conducted by the EPA included at least 15 non-city experts from state and federal agencies. In addition, Virginia Department of Environmental Quality Director David Paylor and Secretary of Natural Resources Molly Ward were present representing Gov. Terry McAuliffe.
“I personally have received phone calls from Gov. McAuliffe, Attorney General Mark Herring, Duke Energy CEO Lynn Good, and Mayor Wayne Tuggle of Eden, N.C., all offering their assistance,” Saunders said. “They pledge to monitor this situation throughout the entire process.
“Sen. Mark Warner, Sen. Tim Kaine, U.S. Rep. Robert Hurt and Del. Danny Marshall also continue to stay in touch and are assisting our city in this matter.”
Saunders noted he has visited the Duke Energy ash spill site to get additional information, and he has walked portions of Danville’s riverbank for river inspections and ash assessment
In addition, he has participated in several meetings with city staff -- including staff from the Danville Utilities water treatment division -- regarding the safety of the city’s drinking water.
“We do not take this matter lightly,” Saunders said. “Duke Energy has said it will be ‘accountable,’ and we expect them to honor their commitment. We will continue to keep our regional partners informed, and appreciate their offer of assistance.”
Saunders expressed confidence in the ability of the city’s water treatment plant operators to provide safe drinking water to the public. “The city’s tap water is safe for drinking and other uses. I continue to use it personally, and I am comfortable in doing so,” he said.
Saunders said he appreciates the concerns expressed by citizens, and their inquiries and suggestions he has received. He also expressed appreciation for the numerous inquiries from local, regional and national media.
“Like any crisis or perceived crisis, information can sometimes be miscommunicated and can be confusing,” Saunders said. “Our focus is on facts and our decisions on safety for our citizens will be based on just that.”
Saunders said city staff would continue to provide public updates through news releases and social media.
“I am convinced that our city will be even more safe and better as we move forward with lessons learned,” Saunders said. “Daily, I see state and federal officials in our city working to make certain our citizens are safe during these unfortunate times.”