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Cleanup Nearly Done After Oil Spill From Uptown Building

Carolina Waterfowl Rescue
A volunteer holds a duck covered in oil after the Nov. 24 spill from the NASCAR Plaza building on South Caldwell Street.

Workers have mostly contained a 1,000-gallon diesel spill from an uptown office building into Little Sugar Creek last week. The spill affected birds and turtles along the waterway, and county officials say they’re studying whether to issue a fine.
The diesel leaked last Tuesday from an emergency generator atop the 20-story NASCAR Plaza office tower. The fuel flowed onto the roof and into drains that ran out of the building into Little Sugar Creek.

Mecklenburg County spokesman Mark Boone said the oil had a “substantial impact” on wildlife along the creek and at Freedom Park. Birds and turtles were coated with the thick oil, killing them or leaving them vulnerable to predators. Animal rescue volunteers over the holiday weekend found a dozen ducks and six turtles dead.

Parkway Properties owns the building. Charlotte Manager Cassie Zingery said the spill was discovered Tuesday around 6 PM, and a cleanup crew was there Tuesday night. On Wednesday morning, as workers tried to figure out where the oil flowed, joggers reported seeing and smelling oil along the Little Sugar Creek Greenway. Charlotte firefighters responded and set up a boom to hold back the oil.  

Parkway’s Zingery said the company notified state and federal environmental officials of the fuel spill last Wednesday.

But the company did not, as required, notify local officials. Zingery said by the time workers discovered the extent of the spill, Charlotte firefighters were already on the scene.

Charlotte Mecklenburg Storm Water Services monitors county waterways. Agency spokeswoman Kristen O’Reilly says officials would decide by next Monday whether to issue a fine.   

Zingery said the cleanup was nearly complete Monday. Workers will continue to monitor the creek this week.    Boone said about 90 percent of the oil has been removed. But traces of oil have been found as far as 10 miles downstream, in Pineville.

As for the wildlife, about 30 ducks and 10 turtles were captured for treatment by volunteers from Carolina Waterfowl Rescue. Spokeswoman Kara Lopp said the birds will stay at the group’s Indian Trail headquarters for thorough cleaning, which could take several weeks. Eventually they’ll be returned to the creek.

The turtles were treated and then delivered to another group, Animal Rehabilitators of the Carolina.



David Boraks is a veteran journalist who covers climate change for WFAE. See more at www.wfae.org/climate-news. He also has covered housing and homelessness, energy and the environment, transportation and business.