Local News

Contamination clean-up near Wake Forest homes could take years

Posted October 25, 2012 2:06 p.m. EDT
Updated October 25, 2012 8:18 p.m. EDT

— Officials with Wake County Environmental Services, the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency say it could take years to clean up contaminated water in wells of at least 20 homes near Wake Forest.

The well water of homes in the Stony Hill Road area has tested positive for TCE, a cancer-causing degreasing agent. More than a dozen have dangerous levels of the substance.

"We are dealing with a dynamic and very complex issue. There is no short-term corrective action plan," Wake County Environmental Services Director Joseph Threadcraft told reporters Thursday. "We have further concerns, in that long-term remediation is a footprint that (has) no guarantees, and it has not been mapped out."

Threadcraft said that there is a possibility that the homes could be included on the EPA's National Priorities List for clean-up and that the homes could also be declared a Superfund site.

Superfund is a federal program that allows the EPA to clean up sites with hazardous waste and compel those responsible for the waste to pay for the cleanup.

"Those programs are some time away," Threadcraft said.

The DENR first knew seven years ago about contamination in at least one well in the area, but officials thought it was an isolated case, and it became one of more than 2,400 hazardous waste cases statewide, making it a low priority for clean-up.

When the state went back to the area in recent months as part of its investigation, other wells showed at least trace levels of TCE.

Since July, however, that number has risen to 20 – 14 with dangerous levels – prompting the state to move the site to the top of its priority list.

Testing continues on homes in the area, and the EPA is funding a waterline extension from nearby community water systems to provide affected residents with clean drinking water.

Officials have identified three likely sources for the TCE contamination: circuit board manufacturers – C-Tron, Circuit Board Assemblers and Flextronics – that used to operate in the area.

In the past two weeks, the EPA also said Thursday, it has discovered an area 2 miles north of Stony Hill Road, in Mangum Estates, that's also contaminated with TCE.

So far, nine wells there have tested positive for unsafe levels. Officials say there isn't enough information to know whether they are connected and that they are still testing both sites.