Foul odor likely near affected sewage treatment plants

Credit: City of Charlotte

The image below depicts the vehicle type that was likely used to illegally dump chemicals into the sewer system. The pictured vehicle is typically used to siphon and extract liquid waste. CMPD does not have a definite description of the actual vehicle used in the criminal activity at this time.


by TONY BURBECK / NBC Charlotte

Bio | Email | Follow: @TonyWCNC

Posted on February 10, 2014 at 6:30 PM

Updated Monday, Feb 10 at 8:01 PM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Officials say cleaning up two chemical spills which were both contained at CMUD wastewater treatment plants could take weeks and involve unpleasant odors for folks who live nearby.

The first was an illegal chemical dump of 3-5,000 gallons of toxic PCBs into a grease trap behind a Food Lion on West Sugar Creek Road and WT Harris Boulevard last week.

Those pipes lead straight to the Mallard Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant.  Employees noticed a sheen on the water and directed the incoming contamination to a holding area.

A second incident happened Saturday, when employees at the Sugar Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant spotted contamination. It turned out to be ethanol, possibly from a fuel spill, and did not contain PCBs, officials said.  

Authorities do not believe the two are connected. Neither affected drinking water or posed a public health threat.

Water testing remained a top priority Monday, with officials saying test results show levels are improving.  

"This is nasty stuff; it's very harmful, and we don't want to increase the risk of anyone's exposure to it," CMUD Director Barry Gullet said.

Crews were still working behind the Food Lion Monday morning clearing the PCBs from a grease trap.

The culprits are believed to be driving a large commercial truck with a large plastic tank on the back. No one has been arrested.

The cleanup is expected to take a while. Gullett said different chemicals require different disposal methods.

"We're still working on determining what it's going to take to clean this up. We have a lot of different types of contamination," Gullett said.

We learned crews used their noses to track the PCB spill back to the grease trap behind the Food Lion nearly 10 miles away from wastewater treatment plant. The chemicals give off a distinct smell.

Doris McClodden lives a mile away from the Mallard Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant. Officials say, unfortunately, folks who live near both plants are going to smell an odor as the focus shifts to removal.

"I don't want to smell nothing smelling that bad. It will turn my stomach and give me a headache," McClodden said, "It is what it is; we're going to be affected by it, have to deal with a bad smell."

CMUD is working with businesses to keep their eyes or even security cameras on grease traps, like the one that had the PCBs poured into it.

There are about 4000 of those grease traps all over town, Gullett said.