News Feature | May 6, 2014

Illegal, Toxic Chemical Found In Charlotte Wastewater

By Sara Jerome
@sarmje

twastewaterreg

Legal authorities are on the lookout for illegal polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) dumping after the banned compound was detected in North Carolina's wastewater twice in only a few months. 

Charlotte officials said they have identified "another case of PCBs being dumped into wastewater in Mecklenburg County sometime between September and early March," the News & Observer reported

"That is in addition to the PCBs found in water at a treatment plant in north Charlotte in early February, and ethanol-tainted water discovered at a south Charlotte treatment plant a few days later," the report said. 

Drinking water appears unharmed. "Charlotte-Mecklenburg Utilities says its water supply and those downstream are safe, as the facilities captured most or all of the material," Lake Wylie Pilot reported

The city is willing to pay for information about the potential crime.  "Officials announced Charlotte-Mecklenburg police are offering a $10,000 reward for information [on] the PCB dumping," the News & Observer report said. 

Charlotte is on the hook for an expensive cleanup. "The toxic chemicals found in the sewer system in February will cost Charlotte more than $1.3 million to clean up as the city increases testing for the substances," the Charlotte Observer reported

The report broke down where the money is going: "The Charlotte City Council approved vendor contracts totaling $970,000 for testing, waste handling and decontamination from the PCB episodes. Council approved an additional $317,000 to buy new lab equipment and supplies as testing for PCBs increased."

Utility operators said the PCBs were probably dumped as a cost-saving measure. "[They] think the PCBs were dumped by someone who wanted to avoid the expense of legally disposing of the cancer-causing materials," the Associated Press reported

North Carolina is not the only state struggling with this issue. 

"PCBs were detected in four South Carolina treatment systems, beginning in July. None have been found in North Carolina cities other than Charlotte," HazMat Management Magazine reported

Image credit: "Fulton Officials Discuss Improvements to Wastewater Treatment Plant," KOMUnews © 2014, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

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