NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources investigating contaminated water

by: Linzi Sheldon Updated:

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Officials with the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources are investigating contaminated groundwater underneath a West Charlotte neighborhood.

Officials are trying to figure out where the chemicals are coming from and whether they could affect the residents living there.

"I was shocked," Monique Alexander said. "I've been living here for two years and I just got the letter about two weeks ago."

Bruce Parris, Inactive Hazardous Sites Supervisor with NCDENR, said the groundwater contamination is 1,800 times what's standard in the state of North Carolina.

Parris said NCDENR found out about the contamination from DuPont, which was cleaning up a former site nearby and testing the groundwater in the area. The contamination is not from Dupont.

Officials believe someone may have dumped materials in the area between Primrose Avenue and Willow Street. They don't know exactly where or when, but say the chemicals are in the groundwater.

The site where NCDENR wants to test is just a block away from where eight families are living in homes built by Habitat for Humanity.

The organization is also building three new homes farther down Seymour.

All of the homes in the Habitat area get their drinking water from the city, which state officials say is safe.

Phil Prince, spokesperson with Habitat for Humanity, said an independent environmental testing firm conducted groundwater research on Seymour before Habitat considered building the three new homes.

DuPont says one home nearby does gets its drinking water from a well but that well has been tested and is safe as well.

What state officials want to test is whether the chemicals in the groundwater and escaping the soil as gas instead.

One of the chemicals is PCE, which can be harmful in large amounts or through long-term exposure.

"So the concern would be that these gases would get into homes and it could be harmful?" Eyewitness News asked.

"And they could breathe them and it wouldn't be healthful for them, correct," Parris said.

He said this is just the first step of a bigger investigation.

"It's important to note that just because we're doing this investigation, that doesn't mean there is a known problem," Parris said. "We're doing this ... as an intermediary measure to make sure there isn't a problem."

But Alexander says she can't relax until she sees the test results.

"I got two boys," she said, "and my cousin. So I'm worried not only for me but for them, too."

NCDENR hopes to have a contractor who can complete the testing by mid-November.