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RALEIGH, N.C. -- The latest state water quality tests show that concentrations of iron and aluminum in the Dan River continue to decrease near the site of the Eden coal ash spill.

Iron concentrations are now within state surface water quality standards at three of the four sampling stations.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources reported Thursday that the iron level exceeds surface water quality standards at the Milton site. That site is the farthest downstream from the spill.

DENR's latest test results come from water quality samples the state agency collected through Feb. 10. The samples are from upstream and downstream of the coal ash spill site.

DENR is testing for 28 metals near the coal ash spill. Iron and aluminum are the two metals that are at or above surface water quality standards.

Some of the initial water quality samples taken downstream of the spill site exceeded state surface water standards for arsenic, iron, aluminum and copper.

However, later tests at the same site show neither arsenic or copper exceed surface water standards.

The N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources reports iron and aluminum were high in water quality sampling conducted before the coal ash spill. They are also naturally occurring North Carolina soil.

DENR is also collecting and testing sediments in the river and testing fish tissues to determine whether fish are safe to eat or not.

Meanwhile, state public health officials are advising people not to eat fish from the Dan River and avoid prolonged contact with the water.

"These tests will help us better understand the extent of the damage to the Dan River caused by the coal ash spill," said Tom Reeder, director of the N.C. Division of Water Resources. "Characterizing the spill's impacts on water quality as well as fish and sediment will better inform cleanup efforts."

Duke Energy continued to remove some of the 300 cubic yards of coal ash deposited in the shallow areas of the river Wednesday.

Efforts to remove the coal ash from deeper parts of the river have been stopped until river conditions are safe.

To see a map of all the locations where DENR is sampling water quality and sediment, and collecting fish for testing, visit: http://portal.ncdenr.org/web/guest/dan-river-spill

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