BELMONT, N.C. -- An illegal chemical dump into the City of Belmont's sewer system is not as bad as initially thought.
Officials now say no PCBs were poured into a grease trap at a local Arby's on Park Street, which leads straight to a wastewater treatment plant. Preliminary testing showed the possibility of PCBs but further testing ruled it out.
It never posed a public health threat or risk to drinking water.
Crews checking the grease trap Monday at the Arby's on Park Street noticed a different smell. They were checking the trap as a precautionary measure after an incident two weeks ago in Charlotte when someone poured approximately 5,000 gallons of PCBs into a grease trap behind a Food Lion off WT Harris Boulevard.
"It had a fuel oil smell, strong fuel oil smell," said Belmont City Manager Barry Webb.
Officials immediately shut Arby's down and closed the sewer line. They also diverted incoming sewage to the wastewater treatment plant into a holding facility, prevented treated water from leaving the plant and going into the Catawba River.
Testing for PCBs started immediately. PCBs are hazardous chemicals often used as oils in old electrical transformers and were banned by the EPA decades ago.
"The preliminary results do indicate a possibility of PCBs in this material," Webb said at a morning news conference.
More extensive testing instead found ethanol and benzene, or the equivalent of a fuel dump into the sewer system, officials said.
"We think this is an illegal dumping, not necessarily to harm someone," said Belmont Police Chief Charlie Franklin.
Cleanup is now expected to cost tens of thousands of dollars, not hundreds of thousands of dollars, where the city would have had to delve into its reserves if testing confirmed PCBs.
Police are scouring local security cameras to see if the culprits are caught on tape.
"I can't understand the mindset of some low-life that would take this type of action and do it," said Webb.
If you have any information on this illegal dumping, please call the Belmont Police Department at (704) 825-3792.
This illegal dumping comes less than two weeks after two separate incidents in Charlotte.