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Detoxification Nearly Complete For Warren County PCB Landfill

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WARREN COUNTY, N.C. — It was a landmark case that sparked cries of environmental racism. Now, after two decades of empty promises from the state, a wrong is almost righted. A landfill in Warren County is a month away from a clean bill of health.

Dolly Burwell was among those who protested 25 years ago when the state decided Warren County was the best place to store PCB-contaminated soil. PCB (polychlorinated biphenyl) is known to have chemicals that cause cancer. Burwell has been involved ever since. She and others held politicians to their promise to detoxify the site when the technology became available.

"This is really what I think is a good example of taking lemons and turning it into lemonade," she said.

Some called it a symbol of environmental racism. Now Warren County leaders want to turn the land into a community attraction. Officials said it could become a park or a housing development.

After a year, crews detoxified 65,000 tons of soil. They plan to finish by the end of September. In the detoxification process, dirt is heated to 800 degrees Fahrenheit, turning it black and sterile. Now, sprigs of grass are starting to grow in the area.

"Before we leave this site, we're going to be grading all this dirt back into a smooth hill," site manager Bill Gallagher said.

"I think the process is going to be what's going to give the community a good feel that this site is clean," Burwell said.

Throughout the cleanup project, samples of detoxified soil are being sent to independent labs for testing. The state promises the cleaned soil will far exceed federal standards.


Rick Armstrong, Reporter
Rick Armstrong, Photographer
Kamal Wallace, Web Editor

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