This week’s snowstorm had minimal impacts on the ongoing cleanup, assessment and recovery efforts under way following the February 6 discovery of illegal chemical dumping of PCBs and Trichlorobenzene (TCB) into the Mallard Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant.
A second dumping of hazardous materials into the sanitary sewer system was discovered February 8 at the Sugar Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant on Tyvola Road, but follow-up testing confirmed the substance flowing into the Sugar Creek treatment plant contained ethanol and toluene (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 either incident at the two 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 and staff are working the plans developed to protect personnel and the environment while accounting for contamination levels still present in parts of the Mallard and Sugar facilities. Effective at 6 p.m. today, the CMUD Incident Command Center will scale back operations to regular weekday business hours and the media phone line supporting this specific incident response has been deactivated.
The Mallard Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant continues treating wastewater with a high degree of effectiveness, but equipment decontamination and disposal challenges will take time simply because of the PCB and TCB presence. Water quality sampling and monitoring continues, 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. Operators are working to safely operate the plant while minimizing any additional contamination. State and local 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.
At Sugar Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant, about 80 percent of the stored wastewater that was affected by the ethanol- and toluene-tainted substance discovered on February 8 has been safely and gradually disposed of as part the normal wastewater treatment process. By the first of next week all of Sugar Creek’s plant operations should return to normal. 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 persist. Officials advised earlier this week that some untreated wastewater being kept in isolated storage at the Mallard Creek plant still needs to be monitored as the plant’s recovery and cleanup planning continues. Sugar Creek’s basins no longer hold much of the fuel-tainted material but the basins are being used for normal treatment purposes and some flow may be stored in them (especially as the snow melts). For this reason, residents living near both plants may notice some 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. A joint criminal investigation task force continues investigating this incident. Members of the task force include: CMPD (lead), CMUD and the Charlotte Fire Department; The U.S. 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’.
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.
- Anyone with information on these cases of illegal sewer system dumping should contact the Crimestoppers Hotline at 704-334-1600.
- Anyone observing suspicious activity involving the water or sewer system should report it immediately by calling 911.