KANNAPOLIS, N.C. -- The Environmental Protection Agency is cleaning up a Superfund site in Kannapolis contaminated by lead.
In the dirt at the Villa Mobile Home Park--dug up by a backhoe and a Bobcat--are thousands of old plastic automobile battery casings. They look like darker spots in the dirt.
"I'm shocked,” said neighbor Cherlyn Bailey.
Bailey once lived in the mobile home a few feet from this big dig.
"That's bad for your health or something, isn't it?" Bailey said.
The answer is yes, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, once the battery casings were exposed and if there was long-term exposure. The casings did not pose a health threat when they were underground, officials say.
The exposure happened a couple years ago when storm water runoff carved a path in the dirt and casings poked through.
Even though the casings are made out of plastic, they attract and hold lead.
"It causes led contamination,” said Alyssa Hughes, On-Scene Coordinator with the Environmental Protection Agency.
The lead level in soil there is now 10 times greater than the normal removal level, officials said.
Now, the EPA is digging up the dirt, mixing it with a chemical compound and then taking the soil to a landfill. The hole they are digging will be replaced with non-toxic soil.
"How deep down does it go? Nobody knows,” said neighbor Kenethia Banks.
"I think the more they dig the more they're going to be down in there,” Bailey said.
The EPA’s plan is to dig until they stop finding. They did several tests and has the contaminated site narrowed down to the one area.
"We want to prevent any future exposure caused by the erosion, so that's why I wanted to excavate the entire source instead of leaving some in place,” said Hughes.
The removal is expected to last another month. The EPA says no illnesses have been reported.
Once the EPA is done, the state will come in and fix the drainage. The mobile home park owner tried to fix the exposure problem, but it didn't work. Now this work is costing the EPA and taxpayers $1 million.
The EPA says it will try to recoup the oney, but the mobile home park owner has since died and the property is in bankruptcy.