THE DIRT: Weekly Outdoor News From The Blue Ridge And Beyond

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This week in THE DIRT: Duke pleads guilty to coal ash crimes, new documentary film on hiking the Appalachian Trail premieres, and a California woman is charged in a kayak drowning.

Last Thursday Duke Energy pleaded guilty in a criminal court to nine violations of the federal Clean Water Act. The charges came after a lengthy investigation that was spurred by Duke’s accidental discharge of tons of coal ash into the Dan River in February of 2014. The spill was caused by the failure of a storm water pipe under an unlined ash pit and ultimately coated 70 miles of the Dan River in toxic, gray sludge.

Duke is now ordered to pay $102 million in fines and environmental restoration fees for its illegal discharge of coal ash at not only the Dan River site but at four separate coal burning facilities in North Carolina. $68 million of that sum amounts to fines alone, while the remaining $34 is slated for river and wetland projects in North Carolina and Virginia. Among other things, the investigation found that Duke knowingly directed coal ash seeps from a pit in Asheville into the French Broad River and failed to take action for two years after employees at the Moncure plant informed supervisors of a leaking riser pipe in 2011. Read more here.

A new documentary about thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail is premiering at selected venues throughout the region. Chris Gallaway’s in-depth documentation of his thru-hiking experience starts at Spring Mountain in Georgia and follows the determined hiker north for some 2,180 miles as he completes his first thru-hike in the face of on-trail struggles and monumental tribulations in his off-trail life. Stay tuned to the BRO website for more info about upcoming showings and learn more about his journey here.

The Long Start to the Journey – Trailer 1 from Horizonline Pictures on Vimeo.

Beyond the Blue Ridge

A California woman has been indicted in New York after she allegedly tampered with her finance’s kayak, leading to his drowning on the Hudson River. Prosecutors say Angelika Graswald stand to benefit from Vincent Viafore’s life insurance policy. Searchers have yet to find Viafore’s body and bail for Graswald is set at $3 million. Read more here.

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