WRAL Investigates

Meeker: Raleigh will warn people about PCBs in streams

Posted May 14, 2008
Updated May 15, 2008

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— Mayor Charles Meeker said Wednesday that the city would find a way to warn people about the presence of cancer-causing chemicals in Walnut Creek and Rocky Branch Creek.

The state Division of Public Health tested sediment samples from the two streams that flow through south Raleigh two years ago and found polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs. Their findings weren't publicly disclosed until last month, when regulators issued a news release to warn people about eating fish caught in the streams.

"Anytime you've got PCBs in a stream bed, it's a public health hazard," Meeker said Wednesday, one day after a WRAL investigative report on the contamination.

PCBs were used as coolants and lubricants in electrical equipment until the late 1970s, when the U.S. banned their production. Federal regulators cited evidence that PCBs build up in the environment and can cause health problems from rashes to liver ailments.

Officials also have designated the chemicals as likely carcinogens.

Although Walnut Creek and Rocky Branch Creek empty into the Neuse River, the relatively low levels of PCBs that have been found and the limited public use of the two streams mean that a cleanup is unlikely, said Doug Campbell, director of the Division of Public Health's Occupational and Environmental Epidemiology Branch.

The state doesn't even have money to post fish advisory signs along the banks of the two streams, Campbell said.

"We'd like to put up more signs. We're limited in our budget. We have no money for signs," he said.

The lack of public warning about the PCBs frustrates Meeker, and he vowed to take up the issue with the City Council.

"The state really ought to take care of it, but if the state's not going to, then the city needs to look at it," he said. "We need to see where the fishing spots are. There ought to be appropriate signage."

Fish advisory signs are posted at Lake Crabtree because of PCB contamination traced to the former Ward Transformer Co. plant near Raleigh-Durham International Airport.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has slated the plant site for a cleanup, but federal officials decided last year to let the lake clean itself naturally.

Meeker and environmental groups said they don't like that plan, maintaining the industrial waste doesn't just wash away.

"It's been there for 30 years now, and it hasn't cleaned itself up," said Dean Naujoks, of the Neuse River Foundation. "Why all of a sudden are we expected to believe in nine years everything is going to be fine?"


This story is closed for comments.

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  • wakemom May 15, 2008

    They need to warn people on how slow they are to act on this !!!


  • foetine May 15, 2008

    don't you people understand that we're all going to die from living in Raleigh. You live in Raleigh your entire life -something is going to kill you that's lurking in Raleigh.

  • coolwill May 15, 2008

    get real all Meeker is going to do is find away to get your money, for a project downtown.

  • FloydTurbo May 15, 2008

    It's Thursday .... "Paul Revere Meeker" has made his weekly ride thru town warning the innocent villagers of impending peril.

    We can rest easy now ..... until next week's ride.

  • chargernut69 May 15, 2008

    Too bad they can't come up with a Mayor Meeker Warning.... "Warning: Mayor Meeker appears more intelligent than he actually is"

  • baileysmom3 May 15, 2008

    blown out of proportion like usual. PCBs are found in everything. you probably get more PCBs in your styrofoam container that microwave, then you would from a stream. But I am sure that there is biological contaminets from hog farms in the neuse, put the focus on them instead of PCBs.

  • foetine May 15, 2008

    so much for eating local food. bring on the freezer burned fish

  • suchhappiness May 15, 2008

    This is TERRIBLE news. I was looking forward to my carp dinner tonight but now I guess I'll have to settle for prime rib.

  • coolwill May 14, 2008

    We need to take make sure this state and local government does their jobs. legislator why is their a paper being sold for $1.00 with pictures of people that are accused of a crime and when there is corruption in the legislator branch you withheld the legislators names until or after you do a closed session or the newspaper or WRAL or the FEDs gets a wind of it and then you decide to release the name. What ever a citizen has to go through you have no right to put your self above the law. Maybe you all dismissed the info on the PCB. Does the legislator delete their emails also?

  • coolwill May 14, 2008

    I find it unlikely that the mayor and the governor did not know about this. $400 million dollars and more wasted in the mental health scam. I also believe you will not fine any documents in the governor’s emails, because they have all been deleted. If they focus on the reason why they are in office and not to bill a legacy for there self, they could handle US citizen’s business, and stop wasting tax dollars after there on dreams. Mayor meeker if it was the states business to handle this, then you should get the money that was collected in tax dollars to cover this expense, if it was paid to the city and was used for other that it was intended, then some one needs to be fired, the same thing goes for the state. do not come up with a fee or tax to handle this.