There are currently 1303 sites where pollution release incidents have occurred in Mecklenburg County. Some of the sites have minor soil contamination and other sites have contamination that has extended into the groundwater. So far, 1098 pollution release incident sites have been evaluated resulting in the identification of 213 contaminated wells located near 61 of the release sites.
In 1989, the Mecklenburg Priority List (MPL) was established in response to the need for a more aggressive program to protect citizens from drinking contaminated groundwater. The MPL program is the only program of its kind in the region that actively investigates contaminated sites to insure that residents are not drinking or at a risk of drinking contaminated groundwater. The program does not duplicate the State's efforts in addressing the clean up of contaminated sites.
A site is added to the MPL list when information is provided that reports contamination of soil or groundwater. The MPL is a compilation of the Federal National Priority List (NPL or Superfund), the State Priority List, the State Priority Pending List, and the North Carolina Department of Natural Resources (NCDENR) Incident List for Mecklenburg County. As of 2000, non-discharge permits for Mecklenburg County are no longer added to the priority list. However, there may be non-discharge sites that were permitted prior to 2000 on the priority list. Sites may be added on a case-by-case basis if the land use activity and the potential to impact the groundwater are considered significant. In 1999, landfills were added as MPL sites. The MPL's are subdivided into active, inactive and unknown sites. Active sites have wells within 1500 feet of the site. Inactive sites do not have wells within 1500 feet of the site and unknown sites have not been investigated. To date, 84% of the sites on the list are active or unknown sites.
In 2001, the Groundwater Program investigated 79 MPL sites. Sixty-three were active sites where a total of 996 wells were identified within 1500 feet. Currently, over 3,075 people are using groundwater as a drinking water source around these sites. In 2001, sampling was performed on 212 wells. Fortunately only five of the wells showed contamination above the EPA drinking water standards. In all of these cases, the contaminant was tetrachloroethylene.
The MPL program is unique because the focus is to aggressively search for contaminated drinking water wells. When contamination is identified in a drinking water well, there is direct contact with the resident or homeowner to insure that they are aware of the contamination. It is the goal of the program to work with the residents and with local, state and federal agencies to ensure that all citizens have a safe permanent drinking water source. If the responsible party for the contamination cannot be identified and the contamination is not at a level for state or federal involvement, the owner becomes responsible for obtaining an alternative source of drinking water. Filtering the groundwater may be the only option if Charlotte-Mecklenburg Utilities water or some other water supply is not available. However, filtering groundwater to remove contamination can be very costly for a typical homeowner.