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NC lawmakers calling for change following well contamination


State lawmakers are calling for change following an NBC-17 investigation into toxic water in Wake Forest.

NBC-17's investigation "Poison In The Water" revealed the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources knew about contaminated water in Wake Forest but failed to warn nearby residents.

Rep. Pat McElraft, co-chair of the Environment Committee, tells NBC-17 she is "appalled" that DENR did not alert her to the problem or the families who were drinking water contaminated with TCE, a toxic chemical known to cause cancer.

DENR told NBC-17 last month the department did not have the staff or funding to alert neighbors who could potentially be in harms way.

"I just thank you for bringing this to my attention because it does need state attention," McElraft said.

McElraft has been a member of the Environment Committee for six years, and for the past two years she has served as co-chair of the committee.

"This is the first time I have heard anything about contaminated wells. I can guarantee you that saying there were not enough funds to test wells or warn residents is not an excuse that I would accept. If there were known contaminants, it is DENR's responsibility to warn citizens as soon as they knew," McElraft said. 

McElraft is suggesting a system is put in place on the county level that would alert homeowners digging wells near contamination sites.

"It is my responsibility as co-chair of the Environment Committee to make sure this doesn't happen again and that we put legislation in place to protect the public."

N.C. DENR maintains the list of contaminated properties across the state. Since counties issue the well permits, McElraft says the counties should know where their contamination sites are and be responsible for alerting homeowners when they apply for well permits.

McElraft says the Commission for Public Health needs to write rules or there needs to be legislation that would create the requirement to test for TCE if a well is drilled near a known contamination site.

"I think we are working in the right direction. I'm just sorry that maybe we might have missed something before," McElraft said.

In 2002, TCE was dumped from a building on Stony Hill Road. DENR was alerted about the contamination in 2005. Nearly seven years later, in June 2012, the EPA confirmed TCE had spread to the private water wells of 21 families.

DENR is currently creating a database that identifies contamination sites. The public will be able to access that database to see if their home is near contamination.

DENR expects a simplified version to be completed by March 2013. It could take another full year after that plus more funding before the full database is operational.

DENR believes two circuit board manufacturing companies are responsible for the contamination.



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Charlotte Huffman

An award-winning journalist with an investigative edge, Charlotte has driven legislative change with reports on workplace safety concerns and contaminated groundwater. Contact our Investigative Team anytime HERE. More>>

Poison in the Water

There are at least 2,000 sites statewide where DENR knows there is TCE contamination that is likely spreading into the water of unsuspecting families. More>>

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