Fayetteville water test reveals high levels of contaminant used in soaps and plastics

State - Regional

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (WNCN) — When the Public Works Commission in Fayetteville conducted one of its latest water tests, they noticed high levels of the contaminant 1,4 dioxane.

It’s used for many consumer products including soaps and plastic. 

“We knew something had happened, we just did not know what,” said PWC spokeswoman Carolyn Justice-Hinson.

They now know the problem started in Greensboro.

Shamrock Environmental Corporation says they treated and discharged more than 15,000 gallons of wastewater into the Cape Fear River basin.  

The company says they were getting rid of it for a customer.

The unidentified customer failed to let Shamrock know the wastewater contained the chemical.

Shamrock says this did not violate any regulations, they voluntarily reported the problem to Greensboro and immediately stopped accepting the waste.

PWC says no one from the city of Greensboro gave a heads up to people in Cumberland County, which is where that wastewater was carried along the Cape Fear River.

“We are at the mercy of any of the communities upstream of us, so it has to be a partnership and everybody has to work together because we all are using the same water,” Justice-Hinson said.

The EPA requires testing for the chemical that it calls a likely human carcinogen, but it does not regulate it.

“This is one of many contaminants that the EPA does not have standards for,” Justice-Hinson said.

“They don’t want the public to find out there are chemicals in the water,’ said Fayetteville resident Doug Poole.

Poole says he only uses filtered or bottled water.

“I think the water needs to be improved throughout Cumberland County because our water comes from the Cape Fear River and that’s mud water,” Poole said.

We asked city and county leaders to weigh in.

“It would be easier just to get people hooked up to clean water, not worry about the next chemical that comes out in a discharge,” said Cumberland County Commissioner Michael Boose. “The company appears to be stepping up to the plate and trying to do what they can.”

“We are monitoring the situation,’ said Fayetteville Mayor Mitch Colvin. “We are very concerned about clean drinking water of course, and the city of Fayetteville we have to make sure our residents aren’t put in harm’s way in any fashion.”

PWC says the chemical is now testing at much lower levels in the water.

“We, like everybody else, are concerned when there are spills that we aren’t aware of because we do try to stay very vigilant, our number one goal is to make sure that we have safe drinking water,” Justice-Hinson said.

The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality says Greensboro told them about the chemical release last month. 

Weekly sampling for the chemical is now happening at Greensboro’s wastewater treatment plant.

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