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City Shares Plan to Clean up Contaminated Groundwater, Soil

Posted August 30, 2007

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— There was concern Thursday over contaminated water in southeast Raleigh.

An investigation had found that groundwater and soil around the Neuse River Wastewater Treatment Plant had dangerous levels of nitrates, and the city held a meeting to tell area residents its plan for cleaning up the contamination.

Anyone living within a half-mile of the plant, 8500 Battle Bridge Road, and those who live adjacent to contaminated properties are considered to have been impacted, officials said.

The plant, which the city says handles 45 million gallons a day of sewage, is where almost everything that residents flush down their toilets and wash down their drains ends up. The city's other two wastewater plants are much smaller.

At the Neuse River plant, the wastewater was filtered and treated, and what was left behind was spread on fields surrounding the plant.

An investigation revealed dangerous levels of nitrates in the soil and groundwater in 2003, however, and the state ordered the field-distribution of waste leftovers to stop.

The city came up with a plan to clean up the contamination and shared it with the public Thursday night. Everyone who lives in the affected area received notice, but not everyone was satisfied with what's being done.

“I’m definitely going to have the water tested, probably through a private agency. But I would prefer to have the city of Raleigh pay for it,” said April Nash.

The city tested 75 private wells and found seven with high levels of nitrates. The city extended public water lines to all 75 homes.

Mickey Stricker lives a half-mile from the plant. He's still on well water, but he said he’s concerned the contamination might spread.

“They said they had no problems with it 25 years ago when they started with it,” he said. “They said there wasn’t going to be a problem, and everything was going to be OK, and now we have a problem. So, what’s going to happen 25 years from now?”

Consuming nitrates in large quantities can make people sick. So far, city officials said they have not heard any complaints of health problems. They've hired groundwater experts to remove the nitrates.

The city's assistant public works director said he is confident the contamination will not spread.


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  • Waterrox Aug 31, 2007

    I know farmers do not intentionally dump into rivers either. I never said that, nor did I go down the "farm" road. I, too, have a spray irrigation license, and am certified for wastewater collection systems and treatment plants.

    As for golf courses, those places are awful for leaching and runoff, mainly due to the over application of fertilizer.

    Time to enjoy my labor day weekend!

  • doodad Aug 31, 2007

    waterrox, a farmer does not intentionally "dump" into rivers either. That would require a honeywagon. A spill would be excessive runoff from a sloped field or from a riser that burst from excessive pressure. These spills are readily contained and most never reach any significant streams that would lead to rivers. I have had a NC Certified Waste Applicator license and have pumped hog waste upon fields with slopes and I have babysat these irrigating guns to avoid such runoff. I don't have hogs myself but hog farmers get blamed for excessive nitrogen content in rivers. Let's not forget golf courses, they leach nitrogen as well.

  • Waterrox Aug 31, 2007

    I assume it would be true that farmers would have a bigger burden on their wallet than a municipality, but that does not excuse spills from a farmer OR town (Cary, etc.). Either way, the fines go to the school district that the infraction occurred in.

    I would also say that Cary didn't "dump" wastewater in to Swift Creek. Their pump station failed, and the water spilled. Dumping implies they did it on purpose, when in fact it was spilled (an accident).

    Also, while Riverkeepers, etc. are quite vocal about hog facilities, trust me, plenty of groups get up in arms about municipalities and utilities effecting the rivers. I remember plenty of articles on WRAL about the Cary Swift Creek spill, so I don't think it is 100% farmer bashing.

    Have a good labor day weekend!

  • doodad Aug 31, 2007

    SS67, your reply only goes to show how "missinformed" you are. I guess that's my "bee" that waterrox is referring to.

    Swine waste is contained in a lagoon and the solids sink to the bottom and are digested by anaerobic bacteria. What comes out of the irrigation gun is liquid. No solids.

  • doodad Aug 31, 2007

    Waterrox, there is no bee. Articles about Oak Hill Trailor Park (150 water violations) located near the Neuse River, Cary mununcipal plant dumping millions of gallons of raw sewage into Swift? Creek, and other articles of the same don't get the public bashing reports by the almighty Friends of the Neuse. Waste pollution is waste pollution. AND, maybe I'm wrong but I assume that taxpayers fund waste water mununcipal plants, so if NCDNR fines the plants, then that means the taxpayers have to pick up the tab. A hog farmer, however, is a sole entity and if he has to report a spill and pay a fine, it comes out of his pocket not the taxpayer.

  • SS67 Aug 31, 2007

    Oh right! Hog farms would NEVER discharge into a river. And that's just pee that comes out, no solids. No one (licensed or not) would EVER over apply. Look up the fines from Water Quality for a reality check.

  • Waterrox Aug 31, 2007

    doodad - I don't know what bee got in your bonnet, but I was typing about municipal wastewater treatment plants, not swine farms. I am well aware that hog farms do not have permitted discharges to rivers, and that their wastewater is irrigated and their residuals are land applied at agronomic rates.

    And in actuality, non-point source pollution (i.e., fertilizer runoff, animal waste runoff) is a significant portion of river contamination. Problem is there is no real way to regulate non-point source pollution.

  • doodad Aug 31, 2007

    "Only treated waste water with little solids is discharged into the Neuse River." Waterrox

    Hog farms do not discharge ANY waste water into the Neuse River. ANY contamination would be from a major spill, which hardly EVER occurs. Swine effluent is all liquid, no solids, and a waste water samples analyzed by NCDA will reflect that they are very low in nitrogen content. The sludge is applied once in every 10 years (maybe longer) directly to soil and immediately soil incorporated (plowed under) before a crop is planted. They are applied to crops at AGRONOMIC rates. Leaching is reduced when effluent is applied during the growing season. One has to be licensed by NC to apply waste water. None is "dumped" anywhere.

    Again, city mununcipalities create most of the pollution in the Neuse River.

  • Greyhound_Girl Aug 31, 2007

    I always wondered what those corn fields were for. I used to live out that way, but my neighborhood had city water.

  • Waterrox Aug 31, 2007

    "Another fine example of Government ruining our lives."

    It wasn't the Government's fault. The wastewater treatment plant manager was over applying these solids to the fields. Applying too many solids doesn't allow the plants to take up the nutrients (i.e., nitrate, etc.), so it leaches into the groundwater.

    I believe the manager was fired back in 2003 over this, and the state has prohibited application on these fields. So, at least it won't get any worse at this site, but the plume can still spread downgradient.