Local News

Raleigh Officials Respond to Water Treatment Plant Allegations

Posted September 29, 2002 1:17 a.m. EDT

— For months, WRAL has been following environmental violations at Raleigh's sewage treatment plant. Now, there are allegations of pollution concerns at another public utility -- the city's water treatment plant. State researchers believe something from the plant is killing off fish and bugs in a stream that flows into Falls Lake.

When state environmental biologist Kathy Herring looked at sediment in a stream behind Raleigh's E.M. Johnson Water Treatment Plant, she stirred up a debate. Sampling found an unknown black sludge and little to no aquatic life in the stream. Researchers suspect chlorine or possibly other chemicals discharged from the plant are the cause.

When asked if the situation was a management problem, Raleigh Mayor Charles Meeker said, "No question, there are management issues, particularly with the wastewater plant."

Meeker said the scope of violations at the wastewater plant are more serious, but he also wants answers from the water treatment plant.

"We ought to find out is it only chlorine, is there something else? How long has it been going on? What do we need to do to correct it, and let's get it done promptly," he said.

City Manager Russell Allen said the plant is following all state rules. At the same time, he said operators will make proactive changes in anticipation of stricter discharge guidelines for all water plants.

"We feel like we're not in violation of our permit at all," he said. "We're already taking steps to try and reduce the chlorine in designing elements that will reduce the chlorine discharge."

Public Utilities Director Dale Crisp claims the average discharge from the water plant has half the chlorine one would find in a glass of tap water. However, Dean Naujoks, of the Neuse River Foundation, questions that. He said something toxic from the plant is killing off aquatic life. The state investigation is continuing, but so far, no violations or fines have been issued.

However, the fines and violations have piled up for Raleigh's sewage treatment plant. The city has already paid out over $80,000 for illegal dumping and groundwater contamination. Plant director Marc Fender was suspended, then he resigned. Officials said it could cost taxpayers millions of dollars to make plant changes and repair the environmental damage.