FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, February 12, 2014
Vic Simpson (through 1:30 p.m. on 2/12/14)
Camden Coley (1:30 p.m. through 10 p.m. 2/12/14)
NOTE: This is the only anticipated online and news media update for today.
Cleanup and assessment continues following last week’s discovery of illegal chemical dumping of PCBs and Trichlorobenzene (TCB) into the Mallard Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant on U.S. 29 North. A second dumping of hazardous materials into the sanitary sewer system was discovered Saturday night at the Sugar Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant on Tyvola Road, but follow-up testing confirmed the substance that flowed into the Sugar Creek treatment plant was ethanol (typical of a fuel spill) rather than PCB as initially suspected. There appears to be no connection between the Sugar Creek and the Mallard Creek incidents.
The city drinking water supply was not affected by the incidents at Mallard Creek or Sugar Creek wastewater treatment plants. Charlotte-Mecklenburg Utility Department (CMUD) and other City & County officials continue to reiterate that drinking water is safe to drink, bathe and cook with.
All plants continue operating. Effective today, the CMUD Incident Command Center is operating on a 16-hour schedule rather than a 24-hour schedule. Even with the arrival of the winter storm this week, utility officials are proceeding with plant operations plans that protect personnel and the environment while accounting for contamination levels still present in parts of the Mallard and Sugar facilities. About 60 percent of the stored wastewater that was affected by the ethanol at Sugar Creek has been safely and gradually disposed of as part the normal wastewater treatment process. The Mallard Creek plant continues to treat wastewater with a high degree of effectiveness, but equipment decontamination and disposal challenges are tougher simply because of the PCB and TCB presence. Water quality sampling and monitoring continues. Additional plans are being finalized and put into place to commence cleanup and disposal of contaminated equipment and material from the Mallard Creek plant.
Weather Impacts. CMUD’s Incident Command Center began preparing for the winter storm several days ago. Staffing schedules and transportation plans are in place, and additional steps have been taken to contain any runoff from the cleanup operations under way at Mallard Creek or Sugar Creek wastewater treatment plants. Roadway conditions could impact water quality sampling schedules, but operations will continue. We continue doing far more testing than usual, and we have safety plans in place for retaining access to sampling sites and for transporting the samples to laboratories for evaluation.
Contact with creeks discouraged as cleanup, water quality testing continues
. As a precaution, CMUD continues partnering with other public agencies to monitor water quality on an expanded level. Updated water quality test results from Mallard Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant
generally show gradual improvement, but for now the public is advised to avoid human or animal contact with Mallard Creek and the Rocky River in Cabarrus County until more testing is completed and verified results are available. Creek advisories will remain in effect until contaminated wastewater is significantly removed from each plant. Operators are working to safely operate plant while minimizing any additional contamination. N.C. water quality officials are assisting with the situation and we also are notifying downstream authorities to share this advisory with folks along Rocky River in Cabarrus, Union and Anson counties.
The incident involving ethanol dumping at the Sugar Creek plant appears to have less impact and the safe disposal of it is already in progress. However, CMUD continues testing and evaluation, and continues advising the public to refrain from human and animal contact with Little Sugar Creek (may also know it as Sugar Creek near Park Road)from Tyvola Road downstream or south toward N.C. 51 or South Carolina border until further notice.
Odors may increase, persist for awhile. Officials advised earlier this week that some untreated wastewater being kept in isolated storage at both the Mallard Creek and Sugar Creek plants still needs to be monitored as the plants’ recovery and cleanup planning continues. For this reason, residents living near both plants may notice increased odor around the plants. CMUD is working to communicate directly with residents closest to both facilities. We apologize for the inconvenience and appreciate the public’s patience as we work toward the safe and timely disposal of that wastewater.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department Criminal Investigation. Given the seriousness of the toxic dumping offense at Mallard Creek plant, the Mayor and City Manager have authorized the creation of a joint task force to investigate this incident. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department (CMPD) has joined forces with local, state and federal agencies in an effort to identify and prosecute those involved in this egregious criminal act.
Members of the task force include:CMPD, CMUD and the Charlotte Fire Department; The Environmental Protection Agency Criminal Investigation Division (EPACID); and the N.C. Highway Patrol. The extent of the offense for unlawfully dumping toxic chemicals can include both State and Federal charges. The most serious of these charges would be a felony State charge of ‘Dumping of toxic substance’ and a felony Federal charge of ‘Violation of the Clean Water Act’.
CMPD reports today that the Task Force is continuing to follow up on the investigation, and a new hotline has been established at 704-619-4904. Citizens are asked to contact authorities immediately with any information that could lead to the apprehension of the person(s) responsible for the illegal dumping.