Marion residents notified of possible well contamination

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Posted: Tuesday, September 24, 2013 5:27 pm

Some people living in the North Madison Street, North Garden Street and Fleming Avenue neighborhoods of Marion are being asked to fill out a survey about possible heating oil contamination in their wells.

But this area has for many years been served with city water and most may not even have wells.

An official with the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said this is a legitimate survey that is being done through an environmental consulting firm. She added there was no reason for those people living in that area to be concerned.

“It is very routine,” said Jan Andersen, regional supervisor with the Underground Storage Tank Section of DENR.

Cedar Rock Environmental of Graham recently sent out a letter to residents and property owners within a 1,000 feet radius of the dentist office property owned by Dr. Haskell Mills at 144 Fleming Ave. This letter informs them that a heating oil contamination from an underground storage tank system had been confirmed for that spot. The owner of the property where the leak was detected is required by DENR to gather information concerning water supply wells located within 1,000 feet of the leak and turn this information to the state, according to the letter.

“This information is critical for ensuring the safety of your water supply,” reads the letter.

It goes on to state that the cleanup of soil and groundwater contamination resulting from a leaking heating oil underground storage tank system is costly. Homeowners who have houses built before 1965 are strongly recommended to have their property checked for the presence of an underground storage tank.

Mills said the tank at his property had been there since the 1960s and he was not required to remove it.

“We have not used that tank since we’ve been here,” he said to The McDowell News. “We use a heat pump.”

When the leaking tank was removed, Cedar Rock was required to send out this letter and survey.

“I did not want to scare anybody with it,” said Mills. “They are testing everything.”

The letter includes a survey which asks residents and property owners in that vicinity if they have a well, what it is used for, how deep it is and other information. The residents and property owners are asked to return the survey by Friday. They can fax it, mail it or phone it in.

If anybody had any questions about the survey, they should contact Cedar Rock Environmental or Andersen’s office at DENR.

On Tuesday, Andersen told The McDowell News that this is a legitimate survey. She said Cedar Rock is an environmental consulting firm hired by Mills so he can help meet the state’s rules about the contamination from the heating oil tank. Cedar Rock has removed the tank and contaminated soil.

“They are trying to determine if there was contamination of the groundwater in that location where the tank was removed,” said Andersen. “They have already done a lot of remediation.”

That small heating oil tank at Mills’ dentist office was removed on Aug. 23. The leaking from the tank had to be reported to DENR and this survey is part of the process.

“This is a very common occurrence,” she said. “A lot of it is triggered by people doing property transactions.”

However, residents and property owners in that part of Marion may be puzzled about this survey since this area has been on the city’s water system for decades.

Andersen said it’s very unlikely that there are people in those neighborhoods who are on well water but you never know. She said she would advise people who have gotten the letter to fill it out anyway.

“They might have wells for irrigation,” said Andersen. “That’s the protocol. You don’t know until you ask.”

City Manager Bob Boyette said he did not know about this survey until some people asked him about it. Councilwoman Juanita Doggett, who lives on North Garden Street, got the letter too, Boyette added.

“As far as I know, it is a standard notification they send out regardless of the location,” he said.

Boyette said he too spoke with Andersen about the survey and was informed that it was legitimate.