Whistleblower Alleges Problems With Raleigh Wastewater Plant
Posted June 18, 2002 12:03 p.m. EDT
RALEIGH, N.C. — There are more problems at the city's wastewater treatment plant along the Neuse River just south of Highway 64. The first problem is it may have spilled 41 million gallons of sewage in the river -- seven times more than first reported a few weeks back. Now, an employee is claiming that the problems go deeper than that.
For months, James Rogers documented what he said is an ongoing pattern of pollution at Raleigh's Wastewater Treatment Plant. He said too much sewage sludge was poured into the Neuse River and sprayed on crops.
He also said other toxic chemicals were dumped on the property.
"There was PCB, there was arsenic, there was selenium, there was formaldehyde, there was mercury, there was rat poison, herbicides. The list goes to infinity," Rogers said.
Rogers, a 20-year city employee and a mechanic at the plant, blew the whistle on the operation after he developed chronic health problems he thinks might be related to his job.
"I had to come forward. I thought I might be dying," he said.
Rogers was upset during the annual Waterfest at the plant last month when school children toured what he thinks is a contaminated area. He was suspended for the outburst.
"I believe these men who have lied and covered up are the scum of the earth. They are the domestic terrorists. They have destroyed the environment," Rogers said. "They have probably killed people that worked there at the plant, and they don't have enough moral fiber to keep little children from coming in contact with this stuff."
City Manager Russell Allen said a large amount of sludge was released into the Neuse in January, but he said it was immediately reported to the state. He admits too much sludge was sprayed on crops due to math errors and an outdated computer model.
"We take allegations seriously," Allen said. "We have had very limited problems, very limited mistakes and anytime we have, we've taken corrective action."
The State Department of Environmental Health and Natural Resources is also investigating the plant. The department cited the city earlier this year for spraying too much sewage sludge on crops.
"We've got concerns [about] what happened out there, how long it occurred and what kind of impact to the environment and what can be done to address it," said Ernie Seneca of the state Division of Water Quality.
"I would say at the present rate, if it doesn't contaminate the aquifer under southern Wake and northern Johnston [counties] where everyone's deep well is polluted, it will be a miracle of God," Rogers said.
The city is investigating whether or not employees were exposed to chemicals. The state said it will fine the city for spraying too much sewage sludge on crops.
Rogers is on sick leave and has been told he needs counseling before he can return to work.