Exposé vs. Expose, and a Viewpoint


Completed in 1973, Belews Lake has a surface area of 3,863 acres and a shoreline of approximately 88 miles. It is impounded by a rolled earth fill dam with a concrete spillway across Belews Creek. The lake was created to provide cooling water for Belews Creek Steam Station, the largest coal-fired station on the Duke Energy system.

Unlike most Duke Energy lakes, there is no hydroelectric generation at this dam, so Belews Lake is not under FERC (Federal Energy Regulatory Commission) license. It is used as cooling water for the Belews Creek Steam Station. Drawdown of the lake occurs only when necessary to maintain minimum discharge into the Dan River.

PRESENTLY (from the Feb. 6, 2014 edition of the Winston-Salem Journal):

When Duke Energy started feeding coal to its massive turbines in the 1970s, Annie Brown also saw soot in the mornings, ashy remnants puffed out of the smokestacks. Her husband worked there for 31 years, and Brown, 63, has had a physical ailment ever since she was a young waitress – the loss of full control of one of her hands.

She wonders whether her ailment, which she has had since the plant’s early days – and which doctors, she said, cannot figure out – are the unwanted effects of living near the power plant. There is no way to tell whether coal-combustion waste from the power plant caused the ailment or whether she would have gotten the ailment had the plant never been built. She knows that. But, it seems to her, a lot of people in her area have gotten serious physical ailments at a young age, including her daughter and several neighbors. “I can’t prove anything. But it’s alarming,” Brown said.

Throughout the 70‘s, the Belews Creek Steam Station dumped coal-combustion waste in its on-site, massive ash basin, a type of waste pond, which oozed into Belews Lake. Within years, 17 of the lake’s 20 fish species were wiped out. Selenium was the culprit. Groundwater has been found in recent years to have levels of chromium, iron and manganese above the state’s maximum allowable limit, according to the lawsuit, which includes Duke Energy’s fleet of power plants statewide.


“The Knight Brown Nature Preserve, located in southwestern Rockingham County near the Carolina Camp-in and Marina (located at Belews Lake), is the Piedmont Land Conservancy’s first preserve open to the public. This beautiful property will offer visitors a peaceful opportunity to enjoy the quiet beauty of nature.

With almost three miles of walking trails, the Knight Brown Nature Preserve showcases a wooded valley, two gently rippling streams, many different types of ferns, spring wildflowers and the rare eastern leatherwood shrub. The Preserve has an informational kiosk at the trail head, handmade benches at various places, two bridges and picnic tables. The two large streams on the property feed into Belews Creek just before it flows into the Dan River. There is at least one vernal pool that is prime breeding habitat for spotted salamanders and other amphibians.”


When I read the Oct. 5, 2013 Greensboro News and Record, I came across and cut out an article about a relatively new nature preserve outside of town and was thrilled about a change of scenery. Just last month, on March 10, after a recent snow storm, I headed to the park with camera gear and hiked the 3 trails – it was great – a sunny, spring day, lots of climbs up and down the terrain, some very muddy, snowmelt trails along the creeks, a new view…

Yet something was amiss. As a lover of creatures great and small along the trail – animals, varmints, birds, snakes, frogs, bugs on branches, and even hideous things crawling out from under dead logs and rocks – other than the noise emanating from my hiking boots, the silence was palpable. NOT ONE CREATURE STIRRED, no chirping, no rattling of leaves, no scrapes of paws up tree trunks, nothing the entire time.

Coindence? Based on the latest headlines of Duke Energy’s coal ash spill into the Dan River, is what I experienced a fluke over a couple of hours in a day? Probably so. But we had some awfully nice warmer-than-normal weather throughout the winter months, even given the strange once-a-week snow, ice and/or sleet days. In our neighborhood, the robins, cardinals, chickadees, squirrels, chipmunks, and bugs were already out. It wasn’t as if March 10 was the first warm, spring day.

Having said this, I do plan to go back if for no other reason than to dispel my own conspiracy theory. And for those of you who may be interested in scoping out a new locations for walking dogs, hiking, seeing new terrain, upcoming 2014 events will be held at the Knight Brown Nature Preserve. I submit it deserves a second chance, and with that, some sign of life!

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About Laurie Merritt Photography

Owner: Laurie Merritt Photography
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