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.
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
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."
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.
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."
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.
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."
Who lives nearby: 24,000 people live within three miles, more than 40 percent of them minorities
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.
Who lives nearby: 8,000 people live in Fuquay-Varina.
1400 S. Blount St., Raleigh
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.
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.
Who lives nearby: 17,000 people
N.C. STATE UNIVERSITY, LOT 86, FARM UNIT 1
North of Carter-Finley Stadium, Raleigh
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
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.
Who lives nearby: 70-East Mobile Acres and RV Park is about a mile away.