One of the most beautiful and scenic spots in Cleveland County is the Broad River Greenway. Now the Greenway, all four miles of it, along the Broad River smells bad, is covered with dead fish and deserted. Not just a catfish kill this time, other fish have died in this continuing catastrophe as well. Gamefish, the kind that brings fishermen and others to the area. The latest picture in the Shelby Star of the dead fish shows a small mouth bass of the size any fisherman would love to catch. The picture also shows water from the Broad River that looks like a gelatinous mass of relatively clear goo. Certainly not fit for humans to swim in. Or drink!!! What a mess.
A mess in the Broad River that was definitely NOT caused by the Greenway itself, but by something upstream. Something upstream and something significant. The first thought and a look at an area satellite map shows that a significant presence just upstream of the Greenway is the Duke Energy Cliffside Plant. A coal burning plant that has been operating for over 75 years. Many of those years burning coal without any pollution controls at all. Of the millions of tons of coal burned over the years there are probably thousands of tons of coal ash with excessive, perhaps toxic levels of Mercury, Selenium, Arsenic, Lead and perhaps other toxic materials still on site and still dangerous that have been linked to health problems for humans and fish. A fact that our County Commissioners over looked when they over-ruled a unanimous vote of the Cleveland County Planning Board to deny Duke’s application to build additional coal burning capacity at Cliffside.
The Star reports the Cliffside Plant coal ash pond has a dam, possibly a structurally damaged dam, that is the only barrier between the Cliffside ash pond and the Broad River. Duke has recently been fined millions of dollars for incidents where major rivers have been severely damaged for many many miles by coal ash being washed into the rivers through breached dams. I have no specific information regarding the short term or long term safety of Duke’s coal ash storage dams and systems at the Cliffside Plant. But after seeing for myself all those dead fish in the water, it would be a shame to miss the opportunity to ensure the Duke facility is not polluting the Broad River at the Cliffside Plant and a good fix of any problems is accomplished.
All this knowledge about problems with coal ash, toxic materials and a planning board who advised voting no, and where were our county commissioners, emergency planning people and the Star when the fish kill disaster became known early last week? Hey, they were at the baseball games. And probably swilling down beer with Patrick McHenry when McHenry visited the Newgrass Brewery last week. (The Newgrass Brewery is secretly owned by former County Manager turned Economic Development Partnership Director turned real estate mogul David Deer and the County’s favored architect Roger Holland and located in the old Hudson Building now owned by Deer.) With all the brouhaha going on, the commissioners didn’t have time to look after the disaster in the middle of the Broad River that threatens people and water supplies.