|Investigators gather soil, water samples for testing|
Investigators take samples from a septic pumping truck during the search of a residence in Snow Creek Wednesday morning.
Friday, February 8, 2013
By K.A. WAGONER - Staff Writer
Investigators executed three search warrants Wednesday morning seeking documentation and other evidence of the illegal discharge of sewage in several areas of Franklin County.
Investigators with the Franklin County Department of Public Safety and Rocky Mount Police Department were assisted by state and federal environmental agencies when they served warrants on two residences on Sontag Road in the Snow Creek area and one residence in Bedford County.
The two Franklin County residences belonged to operators of a septic tank pumping business, according to Investigator Josh Harris with the Rocky Mount Police Department. Investigators were searching for business records since the business does not have an actual facility.
At one of the sites, soil and water samples were also taken behind the residence, where investigators believe sewage was also being illegally dumped. The site is on a downhill slope toward Snow Creek, Harris added.
The Bedford County residence belongs to the owner of the suspected septic pumping business, Harris said. The Bedford County Sheriff's Office assisted with that search warrant.
The investigation began on Jan. 3 when a dump site was discovered by a hiker in a vacant parking lot behind the old 84 Lumber facility in Rocky Mount, Harris said. Investigators believe as much as seven loads of sewage had been dumped at the site.
Soon after, the supervisor of the wastewater treatment plant in Rocky Mount reported to investigators that the pH levels at the plant were dropping drastically every day between 6 and 12 p.m., Harris said. Over the last five months, the levels have fluctuated more than they have in the last decade.
Investigators believe sewage is being pumped from county residences and industries and dumped into manholes that lead to the town's treatment facility, Harris said.
"We believe someone is popping open manhole covers and dumping waste into them," Harris said. "The wastewater treatment plant is not designed for industrial waste. That kind of waste would be catastrophic to the town system. It could shut the facility down for a number of weeks if that were to occur."
"That would be a serious threat to the health and well being of the citizens of Rocky Mount," he added.
At that point, investigators launched a full scale surveillance operation, Harris said.
On Jan. 16, a Callaway man was arrested and charged with illegally disposing of sewage and operating without a license from the health department, according to Capt. Marvin Woods with public safety.
Matthew Scott Ferguson, 34, is the owner and operator of A Plus Septic Service, Woods said.
Investigators said Ferguson was allegedly seen by several witnesses expelling sewage from his truck into the gravel parking lot of New Hope United Methodist Church at 3901 Old Forge Road, Woods said.
The evidence suggests 2,500 gallons of sewage was pumped into the parking lot about 55 feet from the church's well, Woods said, and about 200 yards from Coles Creek.
Samples from the soil and well are being analyzed in the state lab, Woods said.
The investigation is continuing, as investigators believe other septic pumping businesses could be involved in illegal dumping, Harris said.
On Wednesday, the Virginia Department of Emergency Services, Department of Environmental Quality, Department of Health and the federal Environmental Protection Agency assisted local investigators with the search and testing.
Anyone with information regarding the investigation should contact public safety at 483-3091 or RMPD at 483-9275.