The results are in, and, according to the testing done by the Waterkeeper Alliance, there are at least five different heavy metals seeping out of these ponds and into the Cape Fear River. It is not permitted, or allowed, but it is literally happening all the time.
When the Waterkeeper Alliance took the samples a little more than two weeks ago, they could only guess what metals might turn up.
Friday, we learned what they found. The results show metals like boron, arsenic, and aluminum all in serious concentrations -- arsenic at 10 times drinking water standards, aluminum up to 250 times drinking water standards, and manganese at more than 350 times the concentrations allowed in drinking water.
"There's untold amounts of these toxic metals that have gone right into the river and it's immediately upstream of the Sanford drinking water intake," said Pete Harrison, the Waterkeeper Alliance attorney.
Harrison was out on the water when they were sampling and points out those metals will be diluted in the river and are filtered out in water treatment facilities. However, he still worries about the constant seeping of toxic ash water into the river.
"The seepage comes from the nastiest stuff at the bottom of the pond," he said.
Just last week, the state sent Duke Energy a notice of violation for pumping more than 60 million gallons of pond water into the river. Duke says it was doing routine maintenance and had the state's permission. The state says it knew nothing about it.
It's not the first time they have seen things differently. Back in 2009, Duke and the state tested the same water, but came back with very different results. They tested for arsenic, parts per billion. Duke's lab found practically none. The state found 140. As for selenium, Duke found nothing and the state found 240 parts. Duke's lab also reported 216 parts of aluminum and the state found 1,400.
The I-Team asked Duke about it, and we got an email telling us they would be "responding to the state, regarding Cape Fear."
When we asked people at the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources about those very different test results, they told us they actually used the state's results in a lawsuit against Duke last summer.
We have not gotten a response on what -- if anything-- DENR plans to do about the same results from Friday.
DENR did send Duke a notice of deficiency Friday for the crack in the dam at the Cape Fear Plant. The state is telling Duke to keep working on the dam, put together a plan to address it in a more permanent way going forward, and show the state its emergency response plan if a dam were to fail.