The Raleigh Naturalist

August 13, 2008

Ward Transformers – Crime Never Stops Hurting

Filed under: Crabtree Creek, Gems & Surprises, green initiatives — Tags: , , , , — raleighnaturalist @ 2:09 pm

     A recent N&O story reminds us of the reason for these signs, posted all along the Crabtree system:  our city’s water system is tainted by PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), a toxic chemical released over many years by the actions of Ward Transformers, a company whose name is etched in the annals of NC corporate crimes, a company STILL OPERATING next to the Superfund site next to RDU airport, where its buried load of poisons is slowly being incinerated through the process pictured below.

Ward Transformer site

Ward Transformer site

Ward Transformers has a long history of environmental crimes in North Carolina.  Long before the discovery that it’s open burning of materials on site to recover copper had applied PCBs to the soil surrounding its plant, Ward Transformers and its contractor, Robert Burns, were found guilty of dumping PCB-laced waste along miles of rural NC highways, using a specially designed dumping apparatus constructed at Ward Transformers.  Burns and “Buck” Ward spent some time in jail, but at some point the EPA or someone in government realized that a bankrupt company couldn’t help pay clean-up costs, so Ward Transformers was left in business.  The state of North Carolina had to scrape up the roadside deposits and figure out what to do with them – leading to a separate whole nightmare with the landfill in Warren County.

That was way back in 1978.  The next year, EPA tests show contamination in the soil around the plant itself.  In 1993, preliminary Superfund action was undertaken and in 2002 it was declared a Superfund site.  Yet much local outcry and promotion took place before clean-up work was begun.  Now, according to the newspaper report, the work is being done, and in a safe manner. Yet concerns remain about the process, as well described in this post at Raleigh Eco News.  I went out to look at the site.  The EPA’s clean-up incinerator really puts out a huge stream of white smoke – apparently almost all water vapor.

     Thank you for listening to my rant.  It just drives me crazy that ole Buck Ward spent a few months in jail and now his company rolls merrily along, though I presume they send a hefty check to the EPA each month.  We will never fully recover from these actions in my lifetime.  And we will never figure out the “best” way to punish such transgressors – justice and reparation are both so tough to achieve.


As a balance to the above, please enjoy a juvenile box turtle living in our garden and a fawn Cara and I saw on a trip last weekend.

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