Scientists studying the aftermath of a massive coal-ash spill in North Carolina have discovered a byproduct of the fossil fuel that may pose human health risks.
Duke Energy Corp. announced in early February 2014 that drainage from a broken pipe was leaking coal-ash into the Dan River, which runs through Virginia and North Carolina. Within a few days, researchers at Virginia Tech realized the spill created an unusual opportunity to better understand how particles just billionths of a meter wide, notably arsenic, embedded themselves in an ecosystem. They published that work in 2015.
Then came the surprise.