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Charlotte-Mecklenburg Utility Department (CMUD) continues operating its Emergency Command Center, and cleanup and assessment processes continue, following last weekend’s discovery of illegal chemical dumping of PCBs and Trichlorobenzene into the Mallard Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant on U.S. 29 North. A second potential toxic dumping incident was discovered Saturday night at the Sugar Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant on Tyvola Road, but advanced testing confirmed yesterday that the substance that flowed into the Sugar Creek Wastewater treatment plant did not contain PCB as originally suspected. Tests indicate the substance that flowed into Sugar Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant was ethanol, which is typical of a fuel spill. There appears to be no connection between the Sugar Creek and the Mallard Creek incidents. See test results here.
Drinking water is not affected and is safe to consume
The city drinking water supply was not affected by the incidents at Sugar Creek or Mallard Creek wastewater treatment plants. City officials continue to reiterate that drinking water is safe to drink, bathe and cook with.
Both plants are back in operation
While the Mallard Creek and Sugar Creeks were offline, the wastewater that continued to flow into the plants was captured and contained in large holding basins and will be treated. This stored wastewater includes some of the most contaminated material (particularly at the Mallard facility); treatment of it is part of the recovery process. The Mallard plant came back online Friday morning, and Sugar Creek resumed treatment operations around 9:30 p.m. Sunday night.
Cleanup, water quality testing continues; creek contact discouraged
As a precaution, CMUD continues extensive water quality testing at all wastewater treatment plants and drinking water treatment plants. Updated water quality test results from Mallard Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant show gradual improvement, but for now the public is advised to avoid human or animal contact with Mallard Creek and the Rocky River in Cabarrus County until more testing is completed and verified results are available. N.C. water quality officials are aware of the situation and we also are notifying downstream authorities to share this advisory with folks along Rocky River in Cabarrus, Union and Anson counties.
While the incident involving ethanol dumping at the Sugar Creek appears less serious, CMUD continues testing and evaluation, and continues advising folks to refrain from human and animal contact with Sugar Creek / Little Sugar Creek from Tyvola Road downstream or south toward Hwy51 or South Carolina border until further notice.
Odors may increase for a while
Officials advised today that some untreated wastewater being kept in isolated storage at both the Mallard Creek and Sugar Creek plants still needs to be monitored as the plants’ recovery and cleanup planning continues. For this reason, CMUD officials mentioned today that residents living near both plants may notice increased odor around the plants. We apologize for the inconvenience and appreciate the patience of those citizens as we work toward the safe and timely disposal of that wastewater.
Potential impacts of winter weather
The winter storm predicted this week could have a slight impact on water quality sampling, but officials point out water quality sampling is a routine practice for the operation. We are doing more than usual, and are preparing safety plans for retaining access to sampling sites and for transporting the samples for evaluation.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department Criminal Investigation
Given the seriousness of the toxic dumping offense at Mallard Creek plant, The Mayor and City Manager have authorized the creation of a joint task force to investigate this incident. The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department has joined forces with Local, State and Federal agencies in an effort to identify and prosecute those involved in this egregious criminal act.
Members of the task force include:
The Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department (CMPD)
The Charlotte Fire Department (CFD)
The Environmental Protection Agency’s Criminal Investigation Division (EPACID)
Charlotte Mecklenburg Utilities Department (CMUD)
North Carolina State Highway Patrol
The extent of the offense for unlawfully dumping toxic chemicals can include both State and Federal charges. The most serious of these charges would be a felony State charge of “Dumping of toxic substance” and a felony Federal charge of “Violation of the Clean Water Act”.
The public is asked to call CRIMESTOPPERS at 704-334-1600 if you have information that could lead to the apprehension of the person(s) responsible for the illegal dumping.
The image below depicts the vehicle type that was likely used to illegally dump chemicals into the sewer system. The pictured vehicle is typically used to siphon and extract liquid waste. CMPD does not have a definite description of the actual vehicle used in the criminal activity at this time.