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It was only when the Environmental Quality storage facility exploded last month that many Apex residents discovered they were living near a dangerous place.

An index of toxic emissions in Wake County 

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It was only when the Environmental Quality storage facility exploded last month that many Apex residents discovered they were living near a dangerous place.

Yet, pollution and hazardous waste can be found throughout the Triangle, the state and the nation—often near schools, parks and neighborhoods.

In the wake of the EQ fire, this week the Indy offers a snapshot of Wake County's other polluters.

With state and federal permits, hundreds of businesses in the county belch pollution into the air, discharge chemicals into the water and dump waste onto the ground—legally. However, many also violate the law. The facilities profiled on this map were selected using three main criteria: the number or egregiousness of the violations; proximity to population centers; and fines assessed since 2003.

Facilities that did not meet those three criteria still emit startling amounts of pollutants into our environment. According to a federal database, the Toxic Release Inventory, Ajinomoto Aminoscience in Raleigh, for example, emits more than 79,000 pounds of air pollutants annually, including ammonia and sulfuric acid, and generates 6.3 million pounds of waste. It is the third largest polluter in Wake.

Mallinkrodt, which tops our list, is No. 2.

Austin Quality Foods in Cary, which makes Kellogg's products, emits 141,000 pounds of ammonia into the air each year, earning it first place honors.

Online resources:

  • See the top 10 polluters in any county ranked by volume of emissions: scorecard.org

  • Learn more about who's polluting what into where: rtknet.org

  • Browse a federal database for polluters: epa.gov/echo

  • Browse state databases for polluters:

    For air: daq.state.nc.us/enf/penalty
    For water: enr.state.nc.us/html/environmental_fines_--_water_q.html
    For land: enr.state.nc.us/html/environmental_fines_land_reso.html
    For hazardous waste: wastenot.enr.state.nc.us/HWHOME/penalties/penalt.htm

    1 MALLINKRODT
    8801 Capital Blvd., Raleigh
    Manufactures acetaminophen, the ingredient Tylenol


    Violations: In May, a pipe ruptured, spilling 77,600 gallons of industrial wastewater into an unnamed tributary of the Neuse River. The accident was the third in 14 months; previous spills released 4,000 gallons and 500 gallons. State inspectors noted "these recurrent releases indicate a pattern of failure."

    Fines: $3,239

    Other pollutants and their effects: Groundwater monitoring has revealed high levels of nitrates on the property, probably from permitted land applications of sludge. The state is requiring additional monitoring to determine if the contamination is migrating beyond the property. Nitrates could harm the Neuse River.

    Who lives nearby: According to the EPA, nearly 30,000 people live within a three-mile radius of the plant, whose property line abuts the Neuse River. The Durant Nature Center and a soccer complex lie north of the plant; Neuse Baptist Christian School is across the street.

    2 POPE INDUSTRIAL PARK WASTEWATER TREATMENT PLANT
    1400 Transport Drive, Garner
    serves offices and warehouses


    Violations: Pope's wastewater treatment plant has racked up at least 26 violations in 15 years for exceeding its discharge limitsat times by more than 1,000 percentfor fecal coliform and ammonia. After a September incident, the sixth in the last year, a state inspector wrote: "This performance is unacceptable. Anytime the permit limits are exceeded, it harms water quality."

    Fines: $13,232

    Who lives nearby: 27,000 people live within three miles, including residents of Green Acres, Rangewood and Echo Heights subdivisions. Smith Elementary School and Wake Christian Academy and are about one mile away.

    3 NEUSE CROSSING WASTEWATER TREATMENT PLANT
    3415 Breaux Court, Raleigh
    Owned by Whitewood Properties, this plant serves an area southwest of Wake Crossroads


    Violations: The plant consistently exceeds its discharge permit for ammonia, fecal coliform and nitrogen. A state official noted after a 2004 inspection that he had "low confidence in the accuracy of other numbers in the report."

    Fines: $25,000

    Who lives nearby: 24,000 people live within three miles, more than 40 percent of them minorities

    4 N.C. CENTER FOR MATURE ADULTS
    42000 Hilltop Needmore, Fuquay-Varina
    Assisted living for senior citizens


    Violations: The center consistently discharges wastewater that contains high amounts of fecal coliform and ammonia, including instances in which fecal coliform exceeded permissible amounts by nearly 3,000 percent. It was noted in the case file that the company often doesn't respond to state notices of violation and other correspondence.

    Fines: $12,730

    Who lives nearby: 8,000 people live in Fuquay-Varina.

    5 CARGILL
    1400 S. Blount St., Raleigh
    Oilseed plant


    Violations: Last year, EPA and the Department of Justice settled alleged Clean Air Act violations at Cargill's 27 domestic plants, including the Raleigh facility. Cargill agreed to reduce emissions of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, carbon monoxide and volatile organic compounds from its corn processing and oilseed processing plants. It also agreed to perform federal and community Supplemental Environmental Projects valued at $3.5 million.

    Fines: $1.6 million for all 27 facilities nationwide

    Who lives nearby: 69,000 people within three miles of the Raleigh plant; two-thirds of the residents are minorities. A low-income neighborhood abuts the plant to the east, and includes the New Covenant Summer Camp.

    6 SMT
    7300 ACC Blvd., Raleigh
    Manufactures sheet metal


    Violations: The company has allegedly been in violation since October 2005, and for nine months was designated to be in significant non-compliance, the most serious level of violation in EPA databases. The company allegedly has failed to label hazardous waste and keep weekly inspection records. Other allegations include failure to maintain and operate the facility to minimize the possibility of fire or explosion, to provide access to internal alarms, and to post next to the phone the locations of fire extinguishers, spill control materials and fire alarms.

    Fines: $16,371

    Who lives nearby: 17,000 people

    7 N.C. STATE UNIVERSITY, LOT 86, FARM UNIT 1
    North of Carter-Finley Stadium, Raleigh
    Old dump


    Violations: The 1.5-acre site was used by science laboratories and agricultural research facilities as a waste disposal area. From 1969 to 1980, there was unauthorized dumping of solvents, pesticides, heavy metals and low-level radioactive wastes, which were buried in containers in 10-foot trenches. Groundwater tests indicate the presence of high levels of toxic chemicals chloroform, bromoform and trichloroethane.

    Fines: None, although the cleanup cost for soil and groundwater is estimated at $3 million. N.C. State signed an agreement in 1998 to implement the ongoing cleanup.

    Who lives nearby: 150,000 people within 4.5 miles

    8 PERGO
    2000 Pergo Parkway, Garner
    Manufactures laminate flooring


    Violations: Pergo didn't obtain an air permit before building a wood waste collection system and other emissions sources that qualified under law as major facilities. It also failed to report its emissions, which include chemicals used in glue.

    Fines: $10,386

    Who lives nearby: 70-East Mobile Acres and RV Park is about a mile away.

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