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WFMY News 2 and 2 Wants To Know are digging deeper into Duke Energy's coal ash spill into the Dan River. Two questions you might have: what is coal ash and how does it get from the plant to the pond?

What is coal ash?

Coal ash is the waste left over when coal is burned for electricity. According to the EPA, it can contain contaminants like mercury, arsenic and other metals associated with cancer and various other serious health effects.

How does the coal turn into coal ash?

Coal-fired power plants burn coal to make steam. That steam turns turbines to generate electricity. When the coal is burned, the inorganic matter in the coal becomes coal ash.

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Dan River coal ash spill timeline:

February 2 - A pipe below a Duke Energy storage pond blew out and caused 39,000 tons of ash and water to spill into the Dan River, creating the third worst coal ash spill in U.S. history.

March 4 - About a month after the incident, internal emails showed state regulators knew for five years Duke power plants didn't have permits to discharge storm-water into rivers and lakes.

March 13 - More internal emails show the state coordinated with Duke Energy before intervening with citizen groups trying to sue Duke Energy over coal ash dumps.

April 2 - Duke Energy's CEO stepped in front of the camera and said Duke Energy is responsible and they are preparing to move forward.

April 16 - Governor McCrory proposed new Coal Ash plan aimed to strengthen the state's power over coal ash dumps.

April 22 - Duke Energy said it will cost $10 billion and take a decade to remove all the coal ash from North Carolina's lakes and rivers.

WFMY News 2 and 2 Wants To Know are digging deeper into Duke Energy's coal ash spill into the Dan River. WFMY News 2

MORE: See all WFMY News 2's reports on NC coal ash

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