Weekend reads: DENR finds thallium, aka “the poisoner’s poison,” near coal ash ponds

State regulators announced Friday that tests of surface water near Duke Energy coal ash ponds in Rutherford and Buncombe counties came back positive for thallium, a toxic metal associated with coal ash.

WRAL reports that the Cliffside test detected thallium at .35 parts per billion, well above the federal recommended drinking water standard of .24 parts per billion. Tests taken further downstream showed a drop in thallium to .13 parts per billion.

At the Asheville plant, a water test from a coal ash waste stream found thallium at .67 parts per billion. Three other samples taken closer to the French Broad River showed thallium below the recreational water standard of .47 parts per billion.


Thallium is a metal that’s produced when some coal is burned. It was commonly used as a rat poison until the U.S. banned it for consumer use in 1975, due to its very high toxicity.

In the 20th century, it was known as “the poisoner’s poison” because it’s colorless and odorless and its compounds dissolve easily in water.

WRAL – State tests find poison near ash ponds

Read the DENR press release.


In other news:

The News & Observer has an interesting profile of former Charlotte Mayor Patrick Cannon, arrested on charges of public corruption last week.

News & Observer – Former Charlotte Mayor Patrick Cannon’s two worlds

Students and parents at Charlotte Catholic High School are calling for the school to apologize after a visiting lecturer “forcefully condemned homosexuality.” Sister Jane Dominic Laurel allegedly portrayed gay people as unfit parents and told students that masturbation, pornography, and absent fathers are the causes of homosexuality.

QNotes – Anti-gay Charlotte Catholic High lecturer sparks controversy

From the Fayetteville Observer, a thorough overview of the GOP Senate primary in North Carolina:

Fayetteville Observer – GOP voters divided among 8 candidates in U.S. Senate primary

Ashe and Watauga County Republican Parties passed a number of interesting resolutions at annual conventions held Saturday, March 22.

Ashe County Republicans signed off on nullifying the Affordable Care Act, withdrawing from the United Nations, repealing NAFTA and opposing any pending free trade agreements, and withdrawing all N.C. calls for a constitutional convention.

Ashe County Republican Party Chairwoman Mary Desautels implored convention attendees to continue to express Judeo-Christian values.

Via the Jefferson Post:

According to Desautels, Islamic Sharia Law cannot coexist with U.S. state and federal laws.

“They want to kill, and it is not a crime under the Qur’an,” Desautels said.

“We are and should fight to remain a Christian nation,” Desautels said.

Jefferson Post – Ashe County GOP holds 2014 convention

Meanwhile in Watauga County, Republicans passed resolutions supporting early voting sites passed by the Republican majority of the Watauga County Board of Elections, in favor of exposing the “tenets and tactics” of the Moral Monday coalition, and calling for the repeal of the Affordable Care Act, among others.

Read the full text of the resolutions here:

High Country Press – Ashe and Watagua County Republican Parties pass variety of resolutions at annual conventions

In other Duke Energy news, the utility has asked a Wake County Superior Judge to temporarily withhold documents provided to a federal grand jury from civil lawsuits related to coal ash pollution scheduled to be heard by the court next week.

“Duke Energy respectfully submits that both the public interest and the administration of justice is better served by permitting the government of the United States, through the grand jury process, to investigate the matters that have been raised rather than by permitting the production of grand jury materials and proceedings to special interest groups that do not have the same obligation to conduct a full, fair, and impartial investigation,” the request for a protective order states.

News & Observer – Duke Energy seeks to withhold documents in lawsuit

The Citizen-Times looks at low wages and lack of affordable housing in Asheville:

Citizen-Times – Why are decent pay, decent housing elusive in Asheville?

The New York Times has a big picture story on the push to limit voting in swing states under Republican control:

NY Times – New G.O.P. bid to limit voting in swing states

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