Asheville is a city in and the county seat of Buncombe County, North Carolina, United States. It is the largest city in Western North Carolina, and the 11th largest city in North Carolina. The city’s population was 83,393 according to the 2010 United States census. It is the principal city in the four-county Asheville metropolitan area, with a population of 424,858 in 2010. Asheville is home to the United States National Climatic Data Center (NCDC), the world’s largest active archive of weather data.
Before the arrival of the Europeans, the land where Asheville now exists lay within the boundaries of the Cherokee Nation. In 1540, Spanish explorer Hernando de Soto came to the area, bringing the first European visitors along with European diseases, which seriously depleted the native population. The area was used as an open hunting ground until the middle of the 19th century.
The history of Asheville, as a town, began in 1784. In that year, Colonel Samuel Davidson and his family settled in the Swannanoa Valley, redeeming a soldier’s land grant from the state of North Carolina. Soon after building a log cabin at the bank of Christian Creek, Davidson was lured into the woods by a band of Cherokee hunters and killed. Davidson’s wife, child and female slave fled on foot overnight to Davidson’s Fort (named after Davidson’s father General John Davidson) 16 miles away.
In response to the killing, Davidson’s twin brother Major William Davidson and brother-in-law Colonel Daniel Smith formed an expedition to retrieve Samuel Davidson’s body and avenge his murder. Months after the expedition, Major Davidson and other members of his extended family returned to the area and settled at the mouth of Bee Tree Creek.
The United States Census of 1790 counted 1,000 residents of the area, excluding the Cherokee Native Americans. Buncombe County was officially formed in 1792. The county seat, named “Morristown” in 1793, was established on a plateau where two old Indian trails crossed. In 1797, Morristown was incorporated and renamed “Asheville” after North Carolina Governor Samuel Ashe.
The city of Asheville is home to a Duke Energy Progress coal power plant near Lake Julian. This power plant is designated as having Coal Combustion Residue Surface Impoundments with a High Hazard Potential by the EPA. In 2012 a Duke University study found high levels of arsenic and other toxins in North Carolina lakes and rivers downstream from the Asheville power plants coal ash ponds. Samples collected from coal ash waste flowing from the ponds at the Duke Energy Progress plant to the French Broad River in Buncombe County contained arsenic levels more than four times higher than the EPA drinking water standard, and levels of selenium 17 times higher than the agency’s standard for aquatic life. In March 2013 the State of North Carolina sued Duke Energy Progress in order to address similar environmental compliance issues. In July 2013 Duke Energy Corp. and North Carolina environmental regulators proposed a settlement in the lawsuit that stated coal ash threatened Asheville’s water supply.
The settlement called for Duke to assess the sources and extent of contamination at the Riverbend power plant in Asheville. Duke would be fined $99,100 if the settlement is approved. Following the coal ash spill in Eden, NC resulting in 82,000 tons of coal ash leaking into the Dan River, the North Carolina DENR cancelled all previous settlements with Duke Energy. Duke said a stormwater drainage pipe under the utility’s Dan River Steam Station lagoon ruptured Feb. 2, allowing ash slurry to pour into the river. Duke Energy faces future legislation by Tom Apodaca, republican NCGA Senate leader forcing them to clean up their south Asheville coal ash ponds. Tom Apodaca expects the legislation will be filed as soon as the General Assembly returns to session in May 2014. Apodaca expects the ponds will be cleaned up in 5–10 years under his law.
Take some time to visit and explore Asheville next time you are in the area.