Local News

Hundreds of Inactive Hazardous Waste Sites Uncovered Across NC

Posted February 21, 1999

— There are nearly 2,000 inactive hazardous waste sites in North Carolina. A recent report shows the state does not know how hazardous half of those sites are.

It's all about time and money. The state'sInactive Hazardous Sites Branchhandles contamination not covered by the federal government.

But there are only five employees assigned to this task, working on a shoestring budget. As a result, they prioritize and only go after the worst offenders.

The state has identified 1,800 hazardous sites in North Carolina where ground contamination exists. Many are industrial sites. But there are others, like a Raleigh hotel which sits on a former landfill and a North Raleigh shopping center where scientists say the water has been contaminated by a dry cleaning operation.

"There's still contaminated sites throughout the state in need of clean-up," says Pat Williamson, a spokesperson for theDivision of Waste Management.

Williamson says we are in this situation because years ago people didn't know what to do with hazardous waste.

"There were simply old practices. Out of sight, out of mind, that we did not know posed a threat to public health or the environment at that time," says Williamson.

There are 34 sites in Wake County, 21 in Durham County, 18 in Cumberland County and 11 in Johnston County. Williamson says most of the sites pose no health threat, but people are concerned.

By law, the person responsible for the contamination is also responsible for cleaning it up. But it's often hard to track down the responsible party, especially after the land is sold.

In the upcoming budget, Governor Hunt has asked for seven more employees to be added to this program statewide.

Cleaning the inactive waste sites is expensive and time consuming.

According to the Division of Waste Management it would cost $180 million to clean the 300 sites it has so far identified as the worst.

Crews can only clean about 25 sites a year. For every one site they clean, another pops up.


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