Efforts under way to put sludge back in its place

Published 12:00 am Thursday, December 3, 2009

By Holly Fesperman Lee

Salisbury Post

Efforts are under way to clean up sludge that leaked from a lagoon near the former Color-Tex plant last week, according to an official with the N.C. Division of Water Quality.

One of the two lagoons on the property started leaking after a trackhoe operator, who was trying to retrieve scrap metal for recycling, broke a valve off a pipe.

Nearly 4 million gallons of wastewater and sludge leaked from the lagoon into the Beaver Pond wetlands area.

According to Susan Massengale, a representative from the public information office of the N.C. Division of Water Quality, the broken pipe has been fixed.

“They’ve started loading the sludge back into the lagoon. They’ve also put up a silt fence and a berm to keep the sludge where it is,” Massengale said.

She said she’d have a better idea of the cleanup timeline after today when officials see how much time and equipment the project requires.

The cleanup is the responsibility of owners David Risdon and Frank McGuire. The Division of Water Quality is only a regulatory agency, according to John Lesley, environmental specialist in the Mooresville office of the Division of Water Quality.

Lesley said officials told Risdon and McGuire they would have to clean up the spill immediately.

“They’re in the process of doing that now. We have staff out there monitoring the situation,” Lesley said.

According to e-mail from Massengale received Friday, initial field tests came back normal and there was no evidence of an immediate environmental impact to the Yadkin River, such as dead fish.

“We found no contamination of the river,” Lesley said.

According to Andrew Pitner, environmental regional supervisor of the aquifer protection section, he and other officials are still waiting for lab test results.

As for how long the waste water and sludge will stay in the lagoons, “I wouldn’t say they could leave it in there forever,” Pitner said.

According to Pitner, Risdon and McGuire will have to clean out and close the lagoons eventually, but no timeline has been established.