The city of Charlotte is still trying to recover from one of the worst disasters in the city's history.
Someone illegally dumped a dangerous chemical that reached a plant that treats water for hundreds of thousands of people.
While police continue to search for the suspect, the city of Charlotte is spending millions of dollars to have it removed.
The cancer-causing chemical, known as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), was illegally dumped in a grease trap behind a Food Lion company on West Pond Road West and into the stream at the Mallard Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant.
It was also traced to the McAlpine Creek Wastewater Treatment Plant in Pineville.
Cam Coley of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Utilities Department said the dumping incident caused problems for operations.
"This was a major emergency. It's a very rare and unusual experience," Coley said.
CMUD officials say workers trapped the chemicals at both sites before they affected drinking water, but it still contaminated at least 46,000 tons of waste.
About 6,000 tons of waste had to be shipped to Alabama for incineration because of high chemical levels in local landfills.
Cleaning up the mess at the two local plants could take more than a year.
Eyewitness News was granted access to the worst-affected plant in Malad River.
Workers are keeping a close eye on the safety of the cleanup effort. Everything must be protected to prevent contaminated waste from contaminating the soil.
CMUD has adopted an all-hands-on-deck approach.
It allows people to take a break from their regular jobs and focus on this emergency," said Speaker Cam Coley.
So far, the cleanup has cost about $3.5 million, but a memo to Charlotte City Council Channel 9 obtained by CMUD says that number could rise to more than $12 million.
Right now, department savings and reserves are covering those costs, but they will soon be borne by customers.
"It's going to be a cost," Coley said. "It's part of your water bill."
CMUD doesn't know what the impact will be on customers.
Despite nearly 550 hours of work and more than 20 leads, police have yet to find the perpetrator.
"Do you think we'll find someone to do this?" Reporter Jenna Dirie asked.
"It's up to the public. We've followed every lead, but we need people with first-hand information," said Major Johnny Jennings of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department's Special Operations Division.
CMUD officials are now educating companies on the use of security cameras and locks to protect vulnerable sites where chemicals may be dumped.
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