School’s neighbors outraged

School’s neighbors outraged
April 09
00:00 2015
(Above: Photos by Erin Mizelle for The Chronicle- A man in the audience questions city employees about what is happening in the neighborhood near the Hanes/Lowrance Middle School,which is sitting vacant because the School Board deemed it unsafe.)

Many living near Hanes/Lowrance search for answers at meeting with city

Residents who live near Hanes/Lowrance Middle School on Indiana Avenue are downright mad and want answers to the dozens of questions they have concerning the soil and air quality of their neighborhood.

The school is considered unsafe by the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County School (WSFCS) Board because of  contamination issues.

On Tuesday night, March 31, the city held a town hall meeting at the Hanes Hosiery Recreation Center at the corner of Akron Drive and Reynolds Boulevard. Nearly 50 people attended the hour-and-a half-long presentation by the Department of Stormwater and Erosion Control as representatives presented a project that will determine how much of the area is polluted and what is in the soil.

Stormwater Manager Keith Huff told residents that the main pollutants found in the ground were tetrachloroethene, trichlorothene and 1-Dichloroethene, all common chemicals that can be found in common household agents. The solvents are used in dry cleaning, cleaning of metal machinery and to manufacture consumer products and chemicals.

“They’re very common. They’re in my household and yours,” Huff said. “The pollutants give off vapors that come up through the soil column. As they migrate through the soil column, if in enough concentrations, they can make their way into a basement or through a slab in a dwelling. That’s how the vapors can affect you in your home. That’s if   in enough concentrations.”

In February, the WSFCS Board voted to move the students from the school because of a vapor intrusion from chemicals in the soil, although a consultant determined that those vapors were not at significant levels.

Questions like “Why are just now finding out?”, “What about our children?”, and “What are you going to do about it?” were thrown around.

Assistant City Manager Greg Turner said that preliminary records have been gathered from the city’s records and the Division of Environmental and Natural Resources (DENR).

“The city is in the same position you guys are. We don’t regulate or control these pollutants, but we are impacted by them, the public streets as well as your properties. What we wanted to do is find out as much as we could about what is actually in the soil that could affect you, our employees and the contractors who work for us,” he said. “We will be working with the state, inactive hazardous branch and the state DENR to assess what these chemicals mean once we get the samples.”

In order to do that, the city will implement monitoring wells in the area. The wells will determine how far the pollutant plume from 2007 has migrated and how it impacts those residents.

Kaba Ilco is the current owner of the land in question and has owned the property since 2001. Sampling of the soil conducted before then showed that the ground was polluted when it was owned by Stewart-Warner/Bassick Sack, according to the presentation.

The new owners drew up an agreement with state officials, in May 2014, to implement a plan to treat the soil and remove the vapors. In the meantime, the city will be doing its own testing to see just how far the contamination goes.

“Our goal is to get new data to depict what’s going on south of 28th street,” Huff said. “Our goal is to move to the south (of Kaba Ilco and Hanes/Lowrance).”

The city will sample the groundwaters, soil, soil vapor, surface water and the drinking water system in areas south of 28th street. The permanent wells will be placed by Griffith Enterprises Inc., a consultant of the city, and the city from 28th Street on down.

“I got the results for the drinking water,” Huff said. “That has been sampled by a certified lab, and there have been no detections whatsoever. They came back clean.”

The entire process will take a couple of months. There will be a two-inch well put in by a geo-probe system. The work began on April 1.

“We will come back periodically to get the information that we need,” Huff said. “We will submit all this data to NCDENR toxicologist.”

The information collected would be submitted to the N.C. DENR toxicologist for review and risk interpretation. The report would determine if there is any present risk to the residents in the area.

“If there are elevated levels that pass the screening levels, we will ask for a remediation plan,” Huff said. “We will ask the state to tell us what to do to manage this risk. In any case, all the information will be shared with the citizens.”

Resident Ellen McCloud said that she feels that the school system knew the ground was contaminated in the 1990s.

“Every time we raised a question, we were told there was nothing wrong. My problem is that the community wasn’t involved. They (the school) said nothing to the community. Before they said nothing, and this year they had to move those children out in the middle of the school year,” she said. “We’re living there. We are right there. If it’s that dangerous, the contamination did not stop at the school, that’s what put us on edge and opened our eyes because somebody said it was contaminated and took action.”

Resident Waunzo Sherard said that he is concerned about the impact that it has had on his property.

“I’ve noticed that our property values have been lowered recently and that my water bill is going up monthly. I want to know if the city is listening,” he said.

Mayor Pro Tempore Vivian H. Burke thanked all attendees for their diligence in holding the city accountable and for their participation.

“We don’t want to hear what the school system had to say about it. We want it firsthand from those that we’ve hired,” Burke said. “So you, the taxpayers, can hear it from them. If there’s a problem there or something we need to do, we are here today to make sure we give you the answers to your questions.”

Another meeting will be planned to share the information that is found. For more information on the presentation, visit

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Chanel Davis

Chanel Davis

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