How are we doing? – Groundwater fouled in state

(Editor’s note: The N.C. Progress Board, a group created by state lawmakers to track trends in North Carolina and set goals for the state, issued its first report in December 2001.

(Each week, the Philanthropy Journal spotlights an issue examined in the report. The goals, targets and analysis below are those of the Progress Board.)

GOAL: In 2020, North Carolina’s air and water will be of the highest quality.

TARGETS: 100 percent of groundwater-contaminant incidents will be managed by 2020.

Contamination occurs when products such as gasoline, oil, chemicals and biological constituents get into the ground water. 

Major sources of such contamination include underground storage tanks, surface-waste impoundments, abandoned landfills, septic systems, hazardous waste sites, pesticides, land-applied wastes, industrial facilities and spills.

INTERIM TARGETS: 90 percent of high-risk groundwater contaminant incidents will be managed by 2010.


Number of underground storage tank contamination incidents.

In 1989, 857 incidents of leaking petroleum underground storage tank incidents were reported. 

As of March 2001, 14,839 incidents had been reported – 5,804 of which had been closed out, with no further work required. 

That leaves 9,035 “open” sites.

Since 1989, the number of known regulated underground storage tanks in the state has decreased to 32,392 from 96,594

However, an estimated 23 percent of the 32,392 currently active underground storage tanks are not in compliance with regulations designed to detect or prevent future leaks.

Number of other incidents causing groundwater contamination.


Of 218 regulated landfills in North Carolina required to submit water-quality data, corrective action or assessment of the water quality is being performed at 88 sites.

Half the sites are unlined, municipal solid-waste facilities closed to accepting any new wastes.

Corrective action is being taken at the other 43 locations.

Hazardous-waste sites:

There are 1,387 known releases from 2,187 regulated hazardous waste and superfund sites. 

Of these, 24 percent are under corrective action.

A new remediation program for dry-cleaning facilities indicates that 95 percent of roughly 900 facilities have released dry cleaning fluids.

Unregulated sources:

Over the last 10 years, there have been 2,199 chemical, biological and petroleum leaks and spills at unregulated sites that contaminated ground water.

An average of 224 of these contamination incidents have been reported annually over the past five years.

Statewide, corrective action plans for controlling contamination at unregulated sites have been completed for about 33 percent of the contaminant incidents reported. 

The cumulative number of “open” incidents has risen, as state regulators have been unable to keep pace.

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