Warning issued for part of Little Sugar Creek for 'chemical contaminants'

Warning issued for part of Little Sugar Creek for 'chemical contaminants'
(Pam Escobar | WBTV)
(Pam Escobar | WBTV)

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - The Mecklenburg County Health Department has issued a warning against drinking, fishing or bathing in a popular Charlotte creek.

According to health officials, Little Sugar Creek between E. 36th and N. Brevard streets has elevated levels of chemical contaminants.

Testing performed by Charlotte-Mecklenburg Storm Water Services in September 2015 revealed elevated levels of trichloroethylene (TCE) and perchloroethylene (PCE) in the waters of Little Sugar Creek between E. 36th and N. Brevard streets.

"TCE and PCE are colorless, nonflammable liquids that are used in a variety of commercial and industrial processes," officials said. "The source of the contamination in Little Sugar Creek is currently under investigation, but is thought to be associated with industrial activities in the area."

Little Sugar Creek isn't where anyone would want to take a swim. Jordan Ghez lives close by and says it doesn't look like a healthy environment.

"It hasn't been up since I've been here.  It's hard for me to believe that people fish and bathe in the first place. It's a little gross to be that close to it," Ghez said.

County officials want to make sure no one goes near the water in the industrial area and posted signs in English and Spanish saying no drinking, bathing or fishing.

According to health officials, TCE and PCE may cause cancer through multiple routes of exposure, including inhalation and ingestion.

Ongoing sampling is being performed by Charlotte-Mecklenburg Storm Water Services. The affected area will be posted with signs. Notification will be issued when the advisory for TCE and PCE in Little Sugar Creek is lifted.

"Elevated levels of TCE and PCE have not been detected in water sampling performed in other areas of Little Sugar Creek; however, these waters are subject to contamination from a variety of sources and are not to be used for drinking and/or bathing," health officials said.

"The values that were detecting range from three to eight times the water quality standards established by the state and EPA," said Rusty Rozzelle, the water quality manager with Charlotte Mecklenburg water services.

Rozzelle said the county believes ground water contaminated by old industrial activity could be the source of the contaminants in the creek but says the state and EPA will take charge of the clean up.

"It's important for them to investigate to get a clear picture of what's going on," said Lisa Corbitt, the program manager of ground water and waste water services, environmental health of Mecklenburg County.

Officials put signs up along Little Sugar Creek as a warning and will advise once it's been cleaned up.  But there is no time table for when the signs could come down or how long the clean up could take.

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