State says it passed along wrong information on Salisbury Mall well, site 'now considered clean'

Editor's note: This article corrects information from the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources from a story published Thursday. The agency contacted the Post about the error after the first article was published. This follow-up article includes correct information.

SALISBURY — A state agency that monitors groundwater contamination provided incorrect information when the Post asked about monitoring wells at the site of the Salisbury Mall, a spokeswoman said today.

County leaders are nearing a deal for the mall, but one commissioner said he had recently learned about possible groundwater monitoring wells at the property.

Cathy Akroyd, spokeswoman for the state's Department of Environment and Natural Resources, said in an email Wednesday that a well on the Jake Alexander Boulevard property was placed on the property earlier this year and could include a vacuum to remove “any volatile contaminants from the groundwater.”

That information is incorrect, she said today, and was the result of an agency staff member's “mistaken impression” that the Post was asking about a different site.

On Thursday afternoon, Akroyd responded to follow up questions from the Post by saying the aforementioned information applied to 329 S. Main St. in Salisbury, not the mall.

The city offered the South Main Street land for a future Rowan-Salisbury School System central office, but county leaders have balked, saying they don't have evidence contamination at the former service station has been completely remediated.

Akroyd said because that site had been in the news and the Post had requested information on it previously, the staff member who provided the information Wednesday assumed the questions related to it, even though the Post provided the state agency with the Jake Alexander Boulevard address for the mall.

A well was placed at the Salisbury Mall site in 1992 “in conjunction with a release from the gas station-related site across Hwy 70 from the mall,” Akroyd said.

She said the well has been monitored by the responsible party's hired consultant with oversight from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

“It is now considered clean,” she wrote in an email. “Regarding the gas station-related site located across Hwy 70 from the mall: it will receive a [No Further Action] designation once a Notice of Residual Petroleum is filed for the site.”

In an email to city officials Wednesday, County Attorney Jay Dees said he expected a due diligence clause would be built into a contract for the mall, allowing county officials a period to probe any environmental concerns.

“Any contract for the purchase of the Salisbury Mall will include provisions for a due diligence or inspection period, during which the county will undertake environmental due diligence,” Dees wrote. “This provision will allow buyer to terminate the contract upon discovery of adverse environmental conditions.”

County Manager Gary Page has not responded to emails or phone calls seeking comment.

This morning, Salisbury city officials received a written opinion from Alan Griffith, a geologist consultant for the city, who said the mall property “was reported to have had historical groundwater hydrocarbon impact above state ground water standards in the late 1990s.

“Furthermore, this incident closure at the gas station adjacent to the mall is being completed for a site with a N.C. DENR former high risk classification due to the presence of drinking water wells in the area near the gas station property that were determined to be not at risk,” Griffith wrote. “The site at 329 South Main Street has a lower intermediate risk classification because there have been no drinking water wells identified within the vicinity of the South Main property.

“Based on our knowledge of the area surrounding the mall with all of the current and former gas station properties including a former Esso Station that was formerly located on the mall side of Statesville Boulevard, we would strongly recommend performing a Phase I Environmental Assessment to a client of ours interested in purchasing the Salisbury Mall property.

“It is also highly likely that the findings of a Phase I ESA would recommend performing a Phase II ESA due to the former Esso station being classified as a potential Recognized Environmental concern for the mall property,” Griffith wrote.

Contact reporter Nathan Hardin at 704-797-4246.

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