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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) - A team of academic researchers equipped with a drone estimates about 35 million gallons of coal ash and contaminated wastewater spilled into a North Carolina river earlier this month.

Wake Forest University researchers released results Tuesday. The study used photos collected by the drone that flew over the Duke Energy coal ash dump that ruptured Feb. 2 in Eden. The scientists used images captured by the drone to create a digital three-dimensional model of the pit, allowing them to calculate the volume of toxic ash that flowed out when a pipe collapsed.

The reported amount equals about 53 Olympic-sized swimming pools.

An accurate calculation of the size of the spill could be key to determining the amount of whatever fines the company may be assessed for the spill.

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