WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. (WGHP) — Winston-Salem city leaders are warning the public to stay out of certain creeks due to chemical runoff from the Winston Weaver Company fertilizer plant.
On Saturday, officials said in a statement, “City officials are warning the public to stay out of Muddy, Mill and Monarcas creeks downstream from the Winston Weaver Co. fertilizer plant and to keep pets and other animals out of the creeks due to elevated levels of chemicals in the water resulting from the fire at the plant.”
Water runoff from the site went to a stormwater pipe that empties into Monarcas Creek south of the 8000 block of North Point Boulevard. Dead fish were found along the creek from the drain down to where Monarcas Creek meets Mill Creek. Officials also raised concerns about Muddy Creek because Mill Creek flows into it. The city is working on putting up water quality notices along the affected creeks.
Samples of water from the pipe showed elevated levels of nitrites, nitrates, ammonia nitrogen and “other potentially harmful chemicals,” according to the city. The city warns that ingesting the water could be “harmful to health.”
The city’s water intakes on the Yadkin River were not affected, and there are no public water wells in the impacted areas.
The contamination was not just caused by the fire, according to the city. Officials say crews tested the waters upstream of the plant and found contaminants which indicate that there was an additional source of contamination.
The city believes that the additional contamination source may have been raw materials that were left exposed to the rain at a Winston Weaver Company storage facility on Brownsboro Road. The company has until Feb. 18 to get those materials under a roof. After that point, the company could face a fine of $500 a day.
There’s no word on how long the city may be waiting before water quality is back to normal. Weather is among factors that will determine how long improvement will take.
To avoid further contaminating city creeks, crews have built a water-retention berm to catch any runoff water from ongoing fire battle before it reaches storm drains. That water is being collected and will be treated offsite. As of Saturday morning, crews had already captured 400,000 gallons of water from the site.