City leaders want help finding people who dump grease and chemicals into Raleigh’s storm drains, and they’re offering a cash reward: $5,000.
Raleigh utility staffers pushing for an increase from the current $1,000 reward after a rash of unsolved dumping incidents elsewhere in the Carolinas. Charlotte and other cities are being forced to spend millions of dollars cleaning PCBs out of their sewer systems, assistant utilities director Kenny Waldroup said.
“We notice he seems to be traveling deeper into North Carolina,” Waldroup said, adding that a bigger reward could “entice participants or their relatives to come out.”
In Charlotte, PCBs – long-lasting environmental contaminants that are toxic in very low doses – were discovered earlier this month in a waste-treatment facility, apparently dumped from a septic truck. Downstream communities were urged to avoid contact with stream and river water. Similar incidents were reported in several communities in Upstate South Carolina.
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Raleigh hasn’t had any problems with PCB dumping yet, but the city is seeing grease from restaurants and other businesses dumped illegally into the sewer system.
“Grease is a significant contributor to our sanitary sewer overflows, and we easily spend more then $5,000 per event” to clean up the mess, Waldroup said.
But while the city council unanimously approved the new reward, some questioned whether the amount would make a big difference.
“I understand nobody has come forward with any cases so far, but $5,000 is a big number,” Councilman Thomas Crowder said. “So my thought is, it this worth it?”
Councilman Wayne Maiorano said the city should first make sure it’s done enough to get the word out about the rewards. So far, mailers and a website notice haven’t drawn any tipsters. With the bigger reward, Waldroup plans to distribute a video about illegal dumping to food-service businesses throughout Raleigh.
Other questioned whether fines for illegal dumping are hefty enough to offset the reward. But Councilman John Odom pointed out that $5,000 for a tip is a lot cheaper than cleaning up a spill. “I think we’re looking at this the wrong way,” he said. “I’m in favor of sticking with the $5,000.”
The city is asking anyone with information on illegal dumping to call 919-996-4540 during business hours or 919-829-1930 at other times.