Local News

Kinston Sewage Plant Blamed for Neuse River Pollution

Posted May 22, 1997 12:00 a.m. EDT

— Environmental watch groups are calling for a criminal investigation into a raw human sewage spill. Millions of gallons of the waste may have flowed into the Neuse River in Kinston.

The environmentalists involved say they're certain raw sewage flowed directly into the Neuse River. They say one of the sources of the spill is Kinston's north side sewage treatment plant. The city says that sewage never made it to the river and there has been no violation. One thing is certain to this point, however, Kinston is going to have to get out it's checkbook.

Kinston admits it. There were at least four spills at the city's two sewage treatment plants. The city says a mechanical failure in the plant's grit removal systems spilled hundreds of thousands of gallons of raw sewage.

Kinston Utilities Manager Ron Wicker says the incidents were never reported to the state because the city misinterpreted its permit. Kinston cleaned up the spill, and Wicker says he is certain none of the sewage ever made it to the Neuse River.

Environmentalists from the Neuse River Foundation say they don't believe it. They say the plants are so close to the water, the sewage had no where else to go but in the river.

Rick Dove is with the Neuse River Foundation. He is angered by the incident. Dove says Kinston can not be allowed to get away with the spill without really doing something about it.

The state is doing something about it. They say it's not a matter of whether Kinston is in violation. It's now a matter of how much the city will have to pay. Wicker says the plant never acted with criminal intent. He's gotten no indication from the state, it thinks otherwise.

Dove says there's a point to be made. He believes it was Kinston's duty to report the spill, and there was a violation of that duty. In Dove's opinion, that negligence itself warrants criminal investigation.

Mark Roberts reporting