Jun 30, 2020

High E. Coli Water Samples Discovered in Federal Building

High E. coli levels were discovered in water sample at Sanford federal building storm water outlet

water samples

The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality’s Division of Water Resources recently issued a notice of violation to the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) for the unauthorized discharge of wastewater from the Terry Sanford Federal Building in Raleigh.

The department became aware of the illegal discharges through an alert memorandum from the GSA’s Office of the Inspector General. This memorandum detailed the discharge of raw sewage via cross connections to the storm water pipes, according to the recent press release.  

According to the DEQ’s press release, the discharge of raw sewage into local waters is a violation of North Carolina General Statutes and the Clean Water Act.

After three sampling trips and two testing sites, results showed E. coli levels higher than recreational standards for the state and country, according to the News & Observer. Of the three samples taken weekly at each location since July 8, none have been below 325 MPN. Most samples were over 600.

According to the News & Observer, the N.C. standard for storm water and other Class C waters, which is based upon five samples in 30 days, is no more than a mean of 200. It certainly should not exceed 400 in two out of the five samples as well. Violations are expected during rainfall and may be caused by chemicals and other contaminants from urban runoff and agricultural lands. Starr noted that the June 15 readings were unusually high and there had been a lot of rain in the days before taking the sample.

The Division of Water Resources said in the notice that it received an email from the Public Building Service on Jun. 10 stating that all affected toilets, sinks and showers in the Sanford building had been made unavailable for use shortly after the report. The notice did not go into further detail.

The city of Raleigh also sent a notice of violations on Jun. 8, issuing a cease and desist for all illicit discharge of wastewater from the building, reported the News & Observer. The city ordered that all of the cross-connections must be identified, documented and removed. According to the document, the GSA has until Jul. 13 to resolve the violation.

The notice of violations directed the GSA to address the violations in writing and schedule a division of water resources inspection of the cross connections and receiving stream by Jun. 25, 2020. The GSA also had to provide a detailed written explanation within 30 days of how severe the issue is and why it had not been corrected. According to the notice PBS Region 4 personnel knew about this issue since 2012. 

“We remain fully committed to working with our tenant agencies and stakeholders in order to develop the best path forward to appropriately address the situation,” said a GSA spokesperson in an email.

Brandi Jenkins, a spokesperson for the southeast EPA Region 4, said the agency is looking into this matter.

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