Cleanup from illegal PCB dump taking months, costing millions

by: Jenna Deery Updated:


CHARLOTTE, N.C. - It's been months since someone illegally dumped toxic materials into Charlotte's sewer system, but Channel 9 uncovered the city is still months from cleaning it up.
Dangerous PCBs were dumped into a sewer behind a Food Lion on West Sugar Creek Road in February. Three days later, ethanol was dumped into the Sugar Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant.
It's going to take months and millions of dollars to make sure those toxic chemicals are out of the system.        
City workers behind Anthony Martin's restaurant off West Sugar Creek Road discovered the PCB dumping.
They found the highly toxic chemical had been illegally dumped in a drain, contaminating the Mallard Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant and threatening people's drinking water.
“It was kind of nerve-wracking.  We were afraid it was going to shut this whole area down,” Martin said.
His son may have seen the person who dumped it and tried to help police, but still police have made no arrests in that case or two other instances of illegal dumping that happened weeks later.
“Hopefully we can get this thing resolved and hopefully it won't happen again,” Martin said.
Utility officials are hoping it won’t happen again, because they estimate it could cost up to $6 million to clear PCBs out of the system.
They are focusing on disposing of nearly 46,000 tons of contaminated solids removed during water treatment.
That could require moving 6,000 tons to Alabama and the rest to local landfills, which alone could cost $3.2 million.
They also believe PCBs may be stuck to the walls of their 12 water tanks, which will also need to be cleaned.
“We're talking about concrete tanks the size of Olympic swimming pools,” an official with Charlotte-Mecklenburg Utility Department said. “To clean them out, you are talking easily a couple hundred thousand dollars per tank.”
While the clean-up continues, utility officials want people to know their water is still safe.
CMUD said it could take another nine months to get the system clean.
Channel 9 asked whether the extra costs could make your water bills go up. Officials said they have savings in the budget to cover emergencies, so rates will not change because of this.

Read our past coverage:

Toxic sludge cleanup costly to taxpayers

CMUD to give update on illegal PCB dumpings

City of Charlotte investigating second illegal dumping incident

DHEC orders stricter testing for PCBs

Mayor on illegal dumping: 'Anything coming out of your faucet is safe'