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Abandoned Textile Mill Contaminates N.C. Groundwater

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Some 200,000 Fayetteville, North Carolina residents are drinking water from supplies that are dangerously close to a contamination plume comprised of a cocktail of toxins, some carcinogenic. NC state officials have been aware of the contamination, which is coming from an abandoned textile mill situated

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adjacent to Fayetteville’s water treatment plant, since the mid-1990s, said The Fayetteville Observer. The water supply storage tank—also known as a clear well—holds about 12 million gallons and lies on top of the plume, noted The Fayetteville Observer, that is comprised of dangerous industrial solvents—so-called tetrachlorothylenes, or PCEs—known to increase cancer risks and liver problems when ingested over time. According to the state, the cleanup of the former Texfi Industries site will cost in excess of $50 million, a figure that well exceeds available funds to just monitor the contamination. Monitoring efforts were reduced over funding, until last year when state officials learned that the plume sunk to 30 feet deep, bypassing a 2001 clay barrier—a slurry wall—meant to maintain the contamination and keep it from reaching the city’s treated drinking water supply, The Fayetteville Observer explained. Sadly, the slurry wall might be doing just the opposite, according to Craig Hampton, Fayettville’s special projects director, said The Fay Observer, citing his public June email that explained that the wall could be drawing contaminants into the massive storage tank. Another document, dated October 2010, from the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources, states that the water treatment storage tank now “sits in contact with contaminated groundwater”; a state consultant’s report from May reveals that a monitoring well dug next to the tank shows PCE concentrations at a massive 2,300 times acceptable limits, The Fayetteville Observer wrote. Although some documents state that the water is safe and monitoring takes place monthly, the Fayetteville toxic plume is sparking worry about contamination to nearby Cape Fear River and prompting experts and advocacy groups to call for broader groundwater and soil testing. The state Department of Environment and Natural Resources said that of over 500 hazardous waste sites it identified in NC, the Texfi land is 33rd worst, said the Fayetteville Observer. And while these rankings help with cleanup schedules, NC only has a $500,000 annual budget to address these sites, noted The Fayetteville Observer. State officials sent letters earlier this year to over 400 Texfi employees to better understand how the now-defunct firm handled toxin disposal; however, as of this autumn, they were only able to reach two former employees and the information received was not considered useful, reported The Fayetteville Observer. The state said will bury a 100-foot pipe about 10 feet deep to catch more underground contaminants before they can reach the clear well, pumping these contaminants into the “interceptor trench” to a sewage treatment plant, said The Fayetteville Observer. This plan, and one year of maintenance, will run about $113,000, almost bankrupting the funds earmarked for the Texfi contamination, said state officials last month. In an April email to city officials, a state consultant described the interceptor trench as a “Band-Aid remediation system” for the “remaining Band-Aid budget,” according to The Fayetteville Gazette. PCEs have all been linked to various cancers, including leukemia, Hodgkin’s disease, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and respiratory cancers. PCEs have made headlines in recent months for being among the toxins involved in the Camp Lejeune tragedy, described as the worst drinking water contamination in United States history.

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