Carcinogenic Chemical Shows Up In Drainage Ditch

State environmentalists discovered trichloroethylene, or TCE, in a drainage ditch off Coliseum Boulevard. Only a small amount of it is at the surface. Most is underground and therefore doesn't pose a risk. But homeowners near the ditch received warning letters Wednesday nonetheless.

"It upsets me," said Alicia Caudle about her and her 9-year-old son. "I worry what's gonna happen to us." Caudle is one of hundreds of homeowners in Vista View, just feet from the drainage ditch which health officials say is contaminated. "My child and the children around here go through the ditch and they play in the ditch," she said.

"This TCE in the ditch is not a problem unless you get into the water," assured State Toxicologist Neil Sass. So, he and other public health officials say keep children and pets out. The health risks are minor, but there. "TCE over the long term is a carcinogen, but we're talking about a lifetime exposure, not a one-time exposure where someone is wading through a ditch," said Sass.

TCE is an industrial cleaning solvent. No one knows who dumped it or when, only that tests now show it's in the creek. It hasn't showed up anywhere else. But that's now consolation for Alicia and her neighbors. The stuff's still right in their backyard. "We plan to live here the rest of our life," she said. "We need to know the outcome of what's gonna happen to us, our health."

Hopefully they will get those answers during three public hearings next week, hosted by the Alabama Department of Environmental Management. The first will be at 5:00pm Tuesday, November 14th at ADEM Headquarters at 1400 Coliseum Boulevard. The other two will be Thursday at 12:00noon and 5:00pm at the same location.

You can call ADEM for more information at 394-4380. Residents in Vista View, Eastern Meadows, and Chisolm are encouraged to attend.