Tainted Wake Forest well owners get clean water

ccampbell@newsobserver.comMay 17, 2013 



  • Stony Hill water meeting

    The Environmental Protection Agency has scheduled a community meeting to talk about the new water lines in Stony Hill and what comes next. The meeting begins at 6 p.m. Tuesday at the Stony Hill Fire Department, 7045 Stony Hill Road.

— Clean water is flowing to 22 homes in rural northern Wake thanks to new water lines that replaced contaminated wells.

Last summer, environmental agencies discovered that more than 20 wells in the Stony Hill community west of Wake Forest were laced with trichloroethylene (TCE), a chemical known to cause cancer, liver problems and other illnesses. The federal Environmental Protection Agency immediately brought in filtration systems, but the long-term solution required a $2 million water line extension from a neighborhood down the street.

“We hooked everybody up that has contamination present in their well,” said Kenneth Rhame, an EPA coordinator who’s been working on the problem since August.

The EPA has also installed 60 water meters to homes in the surrounding area in case the groundwater contamination spreads. Those homes will remain on well water for now because tests have shown they’re still clean.

At a public meeting scheduled for 6 p.m. Tuesday at Stony Hill Fire Department, Rhame will talk about the new water lines and explain the next steps in the agency’s response. Another EPA division will now take over and conduct regular groundwater monitoring around Stony Hill. It will also oversee long-term clean-up efforts and action against the companies responsible for the toxins.

EPA investigators say the culprit appears to be a former circuit board manufacturer on Stony Hill Road. Neighbors have said they saw the business owner washing circuit board parts with a degreaser containing TCE. The EPA is in the process of seeking damages from several companies involved with operation, including Circuit Board Assemblies and Flextronics.

The businesses could be on the hook for millions. “We always try to get our money back from responsible parties,” Rhame said.

The contamination could slow residential development in the popular subdivisions near Falls Lake. The new water lines are operated by Aqua North Carolina, which is pumping water from its community well sites in the Hasentree and Kenwood Reserve neighborhoods. Those wells are getting stretched thin. Before building new homes, Rhame said, developers “would have to talk to Aqua about whether or not there’s capacity.”

To the north of Stony Hill, another neighborhood with 12 TCE-tainted wells is still using filtration systems. The Mangum Estates subdivision was contaminated by a different source, a former dump site. A state agency that handles old landfill problems is evaluating the next steps for the area.

A third contaminated well site discovered last year, off Trawick Road in East Raleigh, will join the city’s water system. The Raleigh City Council voted this month to extend its water lines there, dropping its usual requirement that the neighborhood get annexed into the city limits first.

Campbell: 919-829-4802 or twitter.com/RaleighReporter

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