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City prepares for further testing in Hanes/Lowrance neighborhood

by Chanel Davis

@ChanelRDavis

Officials have narrowed down the area that could be impacted by pollutants used in a former manufacturing plant on Indiana Avenue, near Hanes/ Lowrance School.

Stormwater Manager Keith Huff said that officials are preparing to conduct indoor air quality testing in 13 homes in the neighborhood.

“As of late, we have done a lot of activity with soil borings and soil testing in and around 28th Street and heading down to Blum Park, moving south and west with our efforts,” Huff said. “Our first report has been submitted “¦ they in turn have given us a list of 13 single family properties that they would like us to do indoor sampling on. We are in the process of coordinating with a consultant to do that.”

Huff said testing will include the consultant using a summa canister in the home’s crawl space and, if need be, the living space. The canister, which could easily be mistaken for a silver bowling ball, takes a vacuum-sealed sample of the surrounding air for testing.

“We have sent residents a letter via certified mail and given them information packets to digest,” he said. “We’ve just done that and are in the process of getting feedback from residents there.”

City-contracted testing done by Griffith Enterprises estimates that high-level tetrachloroethylene (PCE), concentrations showed up beneath at least 40 homes and one church in the area’s ground water pollution plume. Results from the first phase report show that that eight out of the 16 ground water monitoring wells that were sampled between April 30 and May 1 reported “detectible concentration of PCE” in the groundwater above the state standard. The area with the most elevated PCE ground water concentrations are at the corner of 28th Street and Stokes Avenue and the corner of 27th Street and Ivy Avenue.

That same report states that trichlorothylene (TCE) concentrations are above the North Carolina Department of Environmental and Natural Resources (DENR) screening level in at least 20 homes. The area reporting the most elevated TCE ground water concentration is on Stokes Avenue between 25th and 27th streets.

“We’ve done similar testing for our contractors,” Huff said. “We’ve dug trenches like we would if we were installing pipes and tested there. The agency doesn’t seem to be alarmed about those levels. We just want to make sure we’ve got things handled on all fronts.”

In May, the Department of Stormwater and Erosion Control launched a monitoring well project designed to determine how much of the area was polluted and what chemicals were in the soil, after an outcry from residents who became concerned when Hanes/ Lowrance was closed and deemed unsafe due to the potential contamination issues.

At that time, Huff informed residents that the main pollutants found in the ground were tetrachloroethylene (PCE), trichlorothylene (TCE) and 1-Dichloroethene, all common chemicals that can be found in common household agents. The solvents are used in dry cleaning, cleaning of metal machinery and to manufacture consumer products and chemicals. Those pollutants were thought to give off vapors that come up through the soil column, and if concentrated enough, can travel through the slab of a home.

Kaba Ilco is the current owner of the land in question and has owned the property since 2001. Sampling of the soil conducted before then showed that the ground was polluted when it was owned by Stewart-Warner/Bassick Sack, according to city documents. In May 2014, the company drafted an agreement with the state to treat the soil and remove the vapors.

City Councilwoman Vivian H. Burke, who represents the Northeast Ward containing the area in question, said that she and city officials are taking the matter seriously.

“I’m just as interested today as I was at our first meeting. I have talked with Mr. Greg Turner (assistant city manager) and looked at the progress because I want to make sure the city is thorough in what they’re doing,” she said. “I want the end results to be satisfactory for our citizens.”

The information collected is in the process of being submitted to the N.C. DENR toxicologist for review and risk interpretation.

“The city’s whole interest is to determine the risk to our residents and contractors in the area,” Huff said.

Burke agrees. “It is the city’s responsibility to make sure that the citizens are safe and I will work to that end,” she said.

Another meeting will be planned to share the information that is found once the report from the toxicologist is finished, according to Huff. !

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