WRAL Investigates

DENR: Circuit board assembly plants caused Wake well contamination

Posted September 19, 2012
Updated September 20, 2012

— Two small circuit board assembly companies who were formerly located on Stony Hill Road near Wake Forest are likely responsible for contaminating the well water at 21 nearby homes, the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources said Wednesday.

DENR officials, along with representatives from the Environmental Protection Agency, met with dozens of concerned homeowners Wednesday to discuss their investigation.

"Everyone is looking for more answers," said John Roth of the Stonewalls Homeowners Association. "They want to make sure what they are consuming is safe."

Since the EPA started its investigation in July, at least 21 homes have tested positive for the presence of TCE – a cancer-causing cleaning agent used to get rid of grease – in well water. Twelve of those homes had dangerous levels of the contaminant.

DENR spokeswoman Charlotte Jesneck Circuit board companies likely caused Wake well contamination

Letters obtained by WRAL News reveal that DENR warned at least three possible developers about an "inactive hazardous site" in the area between 2008 and 2010. Residents, however, said they were never made aware of any potential contamination and have been drinking well water for years.

DENR first became aware of contamination in 2005, but tests determined that it was contained to one well at 7305 Stony Hill Road and was not a widespread concern. 

On Wednesday, DENR said soil samples taken next door, at 7303 Stony Hill Road, showed evidence of chlorinated solvents – a family of chemical compounds that includes TCE. That site was formerly home to two circuit board assembly companies.

The companies were not named, but DENR officials said they have been working for years to make the polluters foot the bill for fixing the problem. Roth said he is considering a class action suit against the companies responsible.

"We know that (TCE) was present in soils on the property. We know there was a discharge on that property. We know there's ground water contamination. We have to show which of those parties did that," DENR spokeswoman Charlotte Jesneck said at Wednesday's meeting.

Cleaning up contamination groundwater can be a lengthy process. In the meantime, the EPA is working out plans to supply affected homes with clean drinking water.

The Hasentree subdivision off Stony Hill Road has a community well that tested negative for any contamination. It is one of several community wells in the area that could be used as a clean water source for people affected by TCE pollution.


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  • chimp1 Sep 20, 2012

    ann anderson vs cyrovac...A Civil Action is a 1998 American drama film starring John Travolta (as plaintiff's attorney Jan Schlichtmann) and Robert Duvall, based on the book of the same name by Jonathan Harr. Both the book and the film are based on a true story of a court case about environmental pollution that took place in Woburn, Massachusetts in the 1980s.

    The movie and court case revolve around the issue of trichloroethylene, an industrial solvent, and its contamination of a local aquifer. A lawsuit was filed over industrial operations that appeared to have caused fatal cases of leukemia and cancer, as well as a wide variety of other health problems, among the citizens of the town. The case involved is Anne Anderson, et al., v. Cryovac, Inc., et al.. The first reported decision in the case is at 96 F.R.D. 431 (denial of defendants' motion to dismiss). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Civil_Action_%28film%29

  • Milkman Sep 20, 2012

    MTBE - it's use was Federally mandated by the EPA until it was discovered how bad it was. So was the regulation mandating the use of MTBE good or bad? Same with the federal regs covering the required use of asbestos as a fire safety product. Just curious.

    Also, Rand was a believer in the judiciary and for the government making and enforcing laws against fraud for example. Rand would possibly argue here that the homeowners don't OWN the land, they rent it from the Government (try not paying taxes on it and see if she was right) so the Government, in allowing them to purchase (or lease) the land messed up because the product wasn't safe. Seriously, Rand would argue that the previous owner had an obligation not to poison the land or to at least disclose what had occured, so in not doing so exposed liability.

  • AtALost Sep 20, 2012

    "US voted Obama into power?? Got us on that one!!" Don't complaing about environmental issues if you're going to complain about Obama. Republicans are anti environment.

  • pinball wizard Sep 20, 2012

    The headline emphatically states the two companies caused the wells problem. The body of the story says that they "likely" caused the pollution.

    Which is it?

  • cushioncritter Sep 20, 2012

    The class action lawsuits are worth pursuing as bankruptcy law does not allow discharge of debt such as successful lawsuits for those convicted of environmental crimes. I'm not sure how this works when the individuals involved try to hide behind "the corporate veil" though, unless it can be pierced.

  • Rebelyell55 Sep 20, 2012

    It wouldn't surprise me at all that someone in the company knew what they were doing.

  • AtALost Sep 20, 2012

    "DENR first became aware of contamination in 2005" Notice this doesn't say when it first started.

    "The companies were not named, but DENR officials said they have been working for years to make the polluters foot the bill for fixing the problem."

    Nice that they're working on it. I'm sure the families take comfort in knowing if they get cancer, they know why. Hopefully DENR will have been successful instead of just 'working on' making the companies pay. But anyone with half a brain knows that fixing something is never as good as before it was broken. We're likely to see the same stories after fracking begins. There's never enough money for proper oversight and most people cut corners for profits and they're lazy. Sadly, those with their heads in the sand won't be the only ones affected.

  • LovemyPirates Sep 20, 2012

    grosol is right.
    Also, arsenic is natural and found in soils. Do these same people want high levels of arsenic in your food & water?

  • geosol Sep 20, 2012

    Some right winger wrote, "Here's the problem for the EPA. These compounds also occur naturally in nature. So you get a lot of false positives for contamination when it's just natural background clutter".
    WHAT?!?!?!? Are you KIDDING?!?!?! Please enlighten us all about how chlorinated solvents are "naturally occurring"! Wow! PLEASE take some time to educate yourself with real science and not just right wing propaganda. Of course, I think this poster also stated that the Deepwater Horizon blowout was "just a minor spill". Unbelievable!

  • streetglide Sep 20, 2012

    lets just inject some more chemical into the ground and force all the bad stuff to the top and vacuum it up??,, OOO sorry, that is Fracking,, my bad!!
    can people not see that there are some thing we don't need to do, to have fuel,----- wood, coal, etc.. are far better choices, and have been used for 100 years or more.
    Raleigh can always call BP for clean up, the GULF is better than ever and tourism is better than ever!.. I am beginning to think our Media and companies, think everyone in the US is just plain stupid and will believe anything. And guess they are right, US voted Obama into power?? Got us on that one!!