CHARLOTTE, N.C.-- A haz-mat crew with the Charlotte Fire Department was called to 600 East Trade Street, the site of the Occupy Charlotte movement, on Tuesday morning.
City workers who had been cleaning the area noticed toilet paper on top of a storm water grate that drains into a nearby creek. Charlotte-Mecklenburg police and city officials believe some protesters have been using the drain as a toilet.
"We're looking at the environmental impact on the stream down there with the wildlife, and things like that," said Deputy Fire Chief Jeff Dulin.
"Plus the water goes downstream for other people to drink further down. But again, we're just trying to cover all our bases, and make sure that if there is any type of environment impact, that we're able to identify that and then correct that and make sure there is no further environmental impact downstream," he added.
About four protesters watched as haz-mat crews scooped debris into five containers for testing. Eric Dow, who has been on the site since October 2011, says he never saw anyone using the drain as a toilet. He says new protesters are told where the closest public restrooms are.
"I'll speak on behalf of most people out here," said Dow. "We apologize that certain individuals would see this as something that we would do. And we're sorry that it has to fall upon city workers to clean it up, because if we knew about it, we would have put a stop to it immediately.
A spokesperson for the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department said there are North Carolina laws against dumping sewage in storm water drains and that it's illegal to put anything other than rain water down a storm drain. However, it's unlikely anyone would be charged.
Court Hearing Cancelled
A hearing to possibly allow Occupy Charlotte back to its camp was cancelled Tuesday afternoon.
Protester attorneys hoped to get a temporary injunction, but that hearing will likely be rescheduled for next week.
One protester said the hearing was cancelled so the group could get more information together before heading to court.