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City of Charlotte Interdepartmental Update on Illegal Chemical Dumping
TUESDAY, FEBRUARY 11, 2014
NOTE: This is the only anticipated online and news media update for today.
View complete updates here
Cleanup and assessment continues following last week’s discovery of illegal chemical dumping of PCBs and Trichlorobenzene into the Mallard Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant on U.S. 29 North. A second potential toxic dumping incident was discovered Saturday night at the Sugar Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant on Tyvola Road, but follow-up testing Sunday 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.  
CMUD is developing project scope and project plans to conduct cleanup and disposal of contaminated equipment and material from the Mallard Creek plant. This work follows the development of operating plans that accommodate the contamination and maintain environmental protection. The Emergency Operations Center will now operate on a 16-hour schedule.
Drinking water is not affected and is safe to consume
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 officials continue to reiterate that drinking water is safe to drink, bathe and cook with.
 
All plants in operation
Four of the City’s five wastewater treatment plants are operating normally, and the fifth plant – Mallard Creek- also is operational. Both the Mallard Creek and Sugar Creek plants temporarily were offline for brief periods last week, and the wastewater that continued flowing into the plants during those time periods was captured and contained in large holding basins for future treatment. This stored wastewater includes some of the most contaminated material (particularly at the Mallard facility); ongoing assessment and treatment (or other appropriate disposal) of this stored material is part of the recovery process that continues.
 
Cleanup, water quality testing continues; creek contact discouraged
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 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. 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.
 
While the incident involving ethanol dumping at the Sugar Creek appears less serious, 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 Hwy51 or South Carolina border until further notice.
 
Odors may increase, persist for awhile
Officials have advised 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.
 
Potential impacts of winter weather
The winter storm predicted this week could impact water quality sampling schedules, but operation will continue. We are doing more testing than usual, and are preparing safety plans for retaining access to sampling sites and for transporting the samples to laboratories for evaluation.
 
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’.
The public is asked to call CRIMESTOPPERS at 704-334-1600 if you have information that could lead to the apprehension of the person(s) responsible for the illegal dumping.