KINSTON, N.C. (WNCT) — WNCT 9 On Your Side has been working closely with some neighbors in Lenoir County who report a number of cases of cancer in their community.
The search for answers led 9 On Your Side to a leaking underground tank nearby at the Kinston Public Service Complex. The leak was reported in November 2008 but recently caused some concern for residents on Wendy Lane.
Thursday, WNCT’s Katie Harden sat down with Kinston City leaders to find out what happened and how the leak was handled.
“We had noticed, upon mandatory inspections, that we have to do of those tanks, that there was some groundwater inside those tanks,” explained Kinston City Manager Tony Sears.
That water meant petroleum was likely leaking into the ground.
“They emptied the tanks and found that there were problems with the tanks and they needed to be replaced,” said Kinston Public Services Assistant Director Steve Miller.
The City of Kinston contacted The North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources immediately and then got to work.
“We took those tanks that were in the ground and removed them,” said Sears. “We also went out a certain distance that the soil have been contaminated by the fuel. We removed all the contaminated soil. We brought in new, fresh soil. We bought new tanks and put those into the ground. Appropriately disposed of the contaminated soil and that’s really the extent of what happened in 2008.”
“We were certainly concerned,” said Miller, who worked on the clean-up. “With all the different things that the city does, dealing with wastewater, stormwater, and drinking water. Obviously we’re very aware of possible environmental impacts.”
“It’s like a 50-foot area that we were cleaning up. So the likelihood that that would seep into another area was pretty slim,” said Kinston Public Services Director Rhonda Barwick. “But we wanted to make sure so DENR gave us all the direction we would need to make sure that didn’t happen.”
The area was cleared by DENR but the city kept a close eye on the spot, monitoring the area through 2012.
“We have a real good team in place and we’re working with the State of North Carolina to make sure that the problems that were there that day were cleaned up and cleaned up appropriately,” said Sears.
The city reports keeping a close eye on the tank to this day, ensuring nearby neighborhoods aren’t impacted.
“We represent not just ourselves, the employees there, but the Kinston community and Kinston wants to do the right thing,” said Barwick.
DENR told the city the leak would not impact any nearby neighborhoods including Wendy Lane. It still does not provide answers for the community there, however. WNCT 9 On Your Side is continuing to look into the issue to see if the water and soil there is safe despite not being impacted by this leak.