The Environmental Protection Agency is cleaning up a lead-contaminated site in Kannapolis.
Thousands of old plastic automobile battery casings were dug up in the dirt at the Villa Mobile Home Park. They look like darker spots in the dirt.
"I’m shocked,” said neighbor Cherlyn Bailey., who once lived in the mobile home a few feet from this big dig.
"That’s bad for your health or something, isn’t it?"
Officials say the battery casings did not pose a health threat when they were underground.
But the casings were exposed a couple years ago after stormwater runoff carved a path in the dirt, and the casings poked through. The plastic casings can attract and hold lead.
"It causes lead contamination,” said Alyssa Hughes, an on-scene coordinator with the federal EPA.
Officials said the lead level in the soil is now 10 times greater than the normal removal level. But the EPA says no illnesses have been reported.
Now, the EPA is digging up the dirt, and will mix it with a chemical compound before taking the soil to a landfill. They’ll then re-fill the site with non-toxic soil.
Some neighbors wonder how much contamination there is.
"How deep down does it go?, asked Kenethia Banks. “Nobody knows.”
Said Bailey: "I think the more they dig the more they’re going to be down in there.”
The EPA plans to continue digging at the site until they stop finding contaminated areas. Several tests conducted so far narrowed the contamination to one area.
"We want to prevent any future exposure caused by the erosion,” Hughes said, “so that’s why I wanted to excavate the entire source instead of leaving some in place.”
The removal is expected to last another month. Once the EPA is done, the state will come in and fix the drainage.
Authorities say the mobile home park owner tried to fix the exposure problem, but it didn’t work.
The cleanup is costing the EPA and taxpayers $1 million. The environmental agency says it will try to recoup the money, but the mobile home park owner has since died and the property is in bankruptcy.