CHARLOTTE, N.C. - NoDa has been one of the hottest areas for development in Charlotte, and the light rail has put development there on a fast track.
But behind those tracks, a vacant warehouse that once held hazardous waste holds a decade worth of dirty secrets.
State inspectors began raising questions about the Detrex Corporation and what it had in the building as far back as 2008.
Tests in 2013 found a solvent often used in dry-cleaning at levels thousands of times above the limit for safe drinking water in the ground under the property.
In 2015, state inspectors searched the warehouse and trailers and found barrels of hazardous waste still waiting to be disposed of.
An outside company cleaned it up the next year.
In December, the state fined Trex Properties almost $200,000 for a list of serious violations including, "failing to minimize the possibility of a fire, explosion or any unplanned sudden or non-sudden release of hazardous waste, which could threaten human health or the environment.”
Michael Hogan moved his custom cabinet business to NoDa 14 years ago, but he didn't ask a lot of questions about what was inside the warehouse and trailers parked two doors down.
“I did not know what was in there,” said Hogan, who is a cabinet maker at Funky Charm. “I know they took in hazardous waste and cleaned it or did something with it, but I don't know for sure.”
“Nobody's said anything -- what could be in the ground,” Hogan said. “I don’t know.”
Hogan said he saw workers out here in protective safety suits a few months ago.
“The city is planning to put one leg of the Cross Charlotte Trail at the site, which will bring thousands of people onto ground contaminated for years by hazardous waste.
“It's something we're always going to run up against,” City Councilman Larken Egleston said. “There are always going to be surprises in the ground.”
Egleston represents the NoDa area on the City Council and he wants to make sure the state deals with the surprises before the city puts a greenway here.
“We, obviously, need to make sure safety is a top priority there,” Egleston said.
A cleanup company put wells in the ground two years ago to take dangerous vapors out of the soil. Tests taken of air in two buildings next to the old Detrex warehouse in February showed air samples were in the safe range.
The contamination was serious enough and so blatant that two years ago federal prosecutors indicted the president and two employees of a company that stored hazardous waste there without a permit.
They pleaded guilty and have been fined and put on probation for two years.
The state is holding a public hearing at 1 p.m. Tuesday at the Sugar Creek Public Library on North Tryon Street on its final plans for the cleanup.
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