Citizens concerned about health issues linked to underground chemicals

Citizens concerned about health issues linked to underground chemicals
January 14
00:00 2016
Photo by Tevin Stinson
(L to R) Environmental toxicologist Will Service and director of stormwater and erosions control Keith Huff update the community on the groundwater testing that was completed in the area.

By Tevin Stinson 

The Chronicle 

Concerned citizens lined the walls of a conference room at Hanes Hosiery Recreation Center last Wednesday, with a number of questions for city officials about the groundwater contamination near Hanes and Lowrance Middle Schools.

“We need answers,” said Brandon Williams who lives near the schools located on Indiana Ave.

“More needs to be done to keep the community informed,” he said. “We only know what we hear on the news or read in the paper. They should be in direct contact with the entire community.”

Last year the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School Board decided to close the two schools after parents and students began to question the health risk linked to the chemicals found underneath the school and surrounding neighborhood.

Now citizens who live in the area say they need to know more about the contaminated area and if they are at risk inside their own homes. A number of taxpayers said they wanted more homes to be tested for contaminates as well.

Director of storm water and erosions control Keith Huff said the city has tested a number of homes in the area and intends to test more homes in the future.

“We have tested inside and underneath a number of houses in the area. We will be testing more houses in the coming weeks, but we need permission from homeowners to do so,” said Huff. “We want to make sure everyone is safe.”

According to Huff, seven homes have been tested in the area for tetrachloroethylene (PCE) and trochloroethylene (TCE), the two most concerning chemicals found in the area. Both chemicals have been linked directly to cancer.

During the test, experts obtained ground samples from underneath a number of homes and tested the air quality inside a number of others believed to be in the affected area.

Huff said none of the homes tested positive for PCE and only one home tested positive for TCE.

Environmental toxicologist Will Service said the amount of TCE present in the home that tested positive would not cause any health issues because the amount present was so small.

“The risk was extremely low in that one finding,” he said. “A one-in-a-million cancer risk.”

Service mentioned large amounts of both chemicals have also been linked to a number of complications with the human liver. The chemicals only pose health risk when released into the air.

According to Service, the chemicals do not pose any risk when present in the ground.

During the meeting Mayor Pro Tempore Vivian Burke said she understands the citizens’ frustration. Burke mentioned she would personally ensure more homes are tested in the area and the community is kept up to date with any changes that may occur.

“I totally understand the frustration of the community members,” she said. “Many of these people have been living here for years and they deserve answers.


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