by: Torie Wells Updated:
CHARLOTTE, N.C. - The city of Charlotte is working to clean up two separate chemical spills into city creeks and officials continue to investigate how and why the dumps happened.
The most recent case happened over the weekend.
The Charlotte Mecklenburg Utilities Department (CMUD) shut down the Sugar Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant off Tyvola Road after employees noticed an unusual odor around 8:45 Saturday night.
Initial tests suggest the potential for PCB contamination but the city confirmed it was ethanol and the levels were not hazardous.
CMUD Director Barry Gullet said to avoid human and animal contact with Sugar Creek until the water is tested and determined to be safe.
Gullet reminded Charlotte residents that the sewer line is separate from the city's water line, so city water is safe to drink.
PCBs were illegally dumped in Mallard Creek last week. Authorities are still not sure if the incidents are related.
CMUD hasn't pinpointed the spot where the Sugar Creek system was possibly contaminated, but there's speculation that it may be coming from companies that remove and haul grease from restaurants and businesses in the areaa.
Officials said contaminated materials are expensive to discharge sometimes, so some companies take shortcuts.
"There are a lot of very honest and very competent waste haulers out there doing business, but across the country have been some situations where there have been some folks who have taken advantage of the situation and have done some very illegal and very damaging dumping into the sewer systems," Gullet said.
Major Johnny Jennings, commander of the city's task force that is investigating the illegal dumping, said the city is asking businesses and restaurants to review surveillance video in hopes that they'd find out who dumped substances into the wastewater system.
"We're asking that these cameras be operational and functional in the areas and direction those grease traps are located," Jennings said. "Any suspicious activity that the public might see or these businesses might see -- we need those reported to Crime Stoppers immediately."
Officials released a picture of a truck similar to one that they think could be used to dump the chemicals. Jennings said anyone who has any information about these incidents should call Crime Stoppers at 704-334-1600.
Gullet added that residents should call 911 if they see someone who isn't in a City of Charlotte truck tampering with a manhole.
CharMeck 311 is answering the public's questions at 311 or 704-336-7600.