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The Mecklenburg Priority List (MPL) program was established in 1989 to respond to the need for a more aggressive approach to protect citizens from drinking contaminated groundwater. The program is the only one of its kind in the region that actively investigates contaminated sites to ensure that residents are not drinking, or at risk of drinking, contaminated groundwater. Specifically, the MPL Program specializes in sampling at-risk water supply wells and focuses to maintain a list of these contaminated sites with up-to-date information so that Areas of Regulated Groundwater Usage (ARGU) within the County are known and accurately located. Not only does contamination potentially affect existing water supply wells, but it can also affect future water supply wells. Therefore, information documented through the MPL program is utilized to evaluate permit applications for future safe groundwater usage by providing information to assist with water supply well locations and/or applying any necessary restrictions that protect citizens from a contaminated groundwater supply or a groundwater supply that is at risk of becoming contaminated.
A site is added to the MPL when information is provided that documents contamination of soil and/or groundwater. Additionally, the MPL is a compilation of the Federal National Priority List (NPL or Superfund), the State Priority List, the State Priority Pending List, and the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (NCDEQ) Incident List for Mecklenburg County. The program does not duplicate the State's efforts in addressing the cleanup of contaminated sites.
In 1999, landfills were added as MPLs. As of 2000, other types of sites with the potential to impact groundwater based on land use activities (to include sites with non-discharge permits) are no longer added to the priority list. However, there may be sites with the potential to impact groundwater and non-discharge sites that were permitted prior to 2000 on the MPL.
The MPL sites are subdivided into active, inactive and unknown sites. Active sites have water supply wells within 1,500 feet of the site. Inactive sites do not have known water supply wells within 1,500 feet of the site. Unknown sites have not been investigated. Currently, over 50% of sites on the MPL are active.
When contamination is identified in a water supply well, contact with the resident and/or well owner is made to ensure that they are aware of the contamination. It is the goal of the program to work with the residents and the local, state and federal agencies to ensure that all citizens have a safe permanent drinking water source. If a responsible party for the contamination cannot be identified and the contamination is not at a level for state or federal involvement, the well owner becomes responsible for obtaining an alternative source of drinking water.
There are currently over 1,900 sites where pollution release incidents have been documented in Mecklenburg County. Some of the sites have minor soil contamination and other sites have contamination that has extended into the groundwater. So far, over 97% of pollution release incident sites have been investigated. However, as contamination sites are reported daily it is a program goal to work diligently to maintain a minimal backlog of uninvestigated sites.