Poison in the Water

Poison in the Water

This is a story about families seeking a better life for their children in the safe, family-friendly town of Wake Forest, North Carolina. The families built their homes and raised their children in a neighborhood most people only dream about.

But those dreams – shattered. Those families – deceived by the people they trust.

In August 2012, WNCN learned a deadly, cancer-causing chemical called TCE was contaminating the water of families in Wake Forest, N.C.

The Environmental Protection Agency told frightened residents not to drink, bathe or cook with the water from their private wells.

WNCN's Charlotte Huffman uncovered the source of the contamination, which dates back 10 years to the owner of a circuit board manufacturing company. The owner illegally dumped more than 50 gallons of TCE.

He later committed suicide.

During the 10 years that followed, the toxic chemical spread underground across 500 acres and contaminated the private wells of dozens of families.

Through a Freedom of Information Act, Charlotte obtained toxicology reports, water sample test results and internal emails from the files of the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

The investigation revealed DENR deceived families because the agency knew there was a cancer-causing chemical in the water but did not tell anyone. For six years, DENR failed to warn families in our community who were building homes, digging wells and whose children were drinking poisoned water.

A DENR administrator admitted the agency failed to protect public safety, and senior managers ignored warnings because the families weren't high enough on the state's priority list.

"Poison in the Water" also revealed a bigger problem. There are at least 2,000 sites statewide where DENR knows there is TCE contamination that is likely spreading into the water of unsuspecting families.

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