Date: December 30, 2002

Final Report


EPA Environmental Justice Study

“Failing Septic Systems and Contaminated Well Waters:

African-American Communities in Mebane, North Carolina”




Funded By:

Environmental Justice Small Grant

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency - Region 4

Atlanta Federal Building

61 Forsyth Street

Atlanta, Georgia 30303



Amount:     $15,000




October 1, 2001 to September 30, 2002



 West End Revitalization Association – CDC

PO Box 661 – 206 Moore Street

Mebane, N.C. 27302-0661

Phone: (919) 563-6099 FAX/Phone: 919-563-8857

Email: wera1usa@netscape.net





Table of Contents_____________________                                       ______Page No.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS                                                                                                   3

ORGANIZATION                                                                                                                    3

PROBLEM SUMMARY                                                                                                         3

PROBLEM STATEMENT / NEED ASSESSMENT                                                         4

PROJECT OBJECTIVES                                                                                                     8

PROJECT METHODS / DESIGN                                                                                       8

DATA COLLECTION                                                                                                            9

RESPONDENTS: Water / Sewer Questionnaire Results                                           9


“Surveillance of Microbial Contamination in Ground and

  Surface Water Supplies in Under-Served Minority Communities

  Mebane, North Carolina”                                                                                               14


BROADER COMMUNITY                                                                                                  18

EVALUATION                                                                                                                      18



Maps 1a, 1b:    NCDOT Map of Construction Plans for 119-Bypass / Overpass


Maps 2            :           West End Community

Maps 3:            White Level Community

Maps 4:            Buckhorn / Perry Hill Community

Maps 5:           Mebane’s City Limits & Extraterritorial Jurisdiction (ETJ)

Maps 6:            Mebane’s Minority Communities



Photograph 1:   Housing Construction in Landfill at West Holt Street and Madison Street

Photograph 2:   Craftique Furniture Company: UST Petroleum Spill Site

Photograph 3:   St. Luke Christian Church in Path of 119-Bypass & Petroleum Spill



EXHIBIT A:     City of Mebane Facilities Report: Plan of Action

EXHIBIT B:     NCDOT Meeting: FHWA Civil Rights Officer Wendell Still

EXHIBIT C:     -North Carolina 119-Bypass Mitigation Outline: Installation Water/Sewer

-Application: City of Mebane Water Distribution System Improvements ($2,850,000 from N.C. Department of Environmental & Natural Resources)

EXHIBIT D:     Application: City of Mebane Wastewater Collection System Improvements

                        ($2,373,000 from N.C. Department of Environmental & Natural Resources)

EXHIBIT E:     City of Mebane’s Block (CDBG) Application October 2002

EXHIBIT F:     City of Mebane Annexation Study

EXHIBIT G:     Newspaper Articles

EXHIBIT H:     Orange County Water Summit & “No Man’s Land”



n      The WERA research team including all community monitors and volunteers helped in gathering well and surface water samples and door-to-door information for questionnaires for this research project.

n      Chris Heaney, graduate student in Environmental Science and Engineering at University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, served as the primary researcher.

n      Sacoby Wilson,  post-graduate student in Environmental Science and Engineering at University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, served as a researcher.

n      Dr. Mark Sobsey, Professor of Public Health at University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, serviced as the research advisor for graduate school students researchers.

n      Melody R. Johnson, WERA’s Office Manager, entered results from the 120 questionnaires and tabulated results.  Note that results do not always total to 120, due multiple response or non responses to some items.

n      Omega R. Wilson, WERA’s President, served as project director and leader/trainer for Community Monitors.


Vision:  Maintain sustainable historic African American communities through preservation, stabilization, and new development.

Mission:  Improve the quality of life for low-income and minority residents denied basic amenities by: a) providing affordable housing, safe water/sewer services, and voting rights,  through economic, social, legislative, and legal means; and b) empowering residents to address institutional racism that foster racial inequities.

 Founded in 1994, the West End Revitalization Association, Inc. is Alamance County’s only community development corporation (CDC).  In 2001, WERA organized its Community-Based Environmental Protection focus to address a going list of environmental justice concerns.

 WERA services residents and homeowners of five communities that were settled by former slaves, just beyond Mebane’s city limits, shortly after the Civil War and are 85% to 95% African American.  Seven 100-year old churches, founded as early as 1864, are landmarks of survival. 

     a)      Over 500 homes, churches, and a Masonic Temple are threatened by failing septic systems and contaminated well water and surface     water outside the city, along with water and sewer lines that do not meet minimum code standards in the City of Mebane;

b)      119-Bypass/Interstate (See Map # 1a, 1b );

c)      Toxic spill of petroleum/diesel fuels that contaminate well water, surface water, and ground water;

d)      Land-use and facilities plans that exclude minority communities (See Exhibits A);

e)      Current and future city growth plans that redline and reduce voting strength of minorities;

f)        Mebane’s long-history of refusing to apply for state/federal grants to address affordable

      housing and lack of basic amenities in the face of public health risks, HUD investigations,

      and directives by the U.S. Department of Justice.


PROJECT SUMMARY: The Environmental Justice Issue is the public health and safety of three African-American Communities who are being denied access to safe water/sewer service.

 West End Community (City of Mebane and Alamance County):  95% African-American, has about 900 residents, 300 houses, six churches, and Masonic lodge.  About 40% of West End was annexed into the City of Mebane and has voting rights.  The other 60% is in Mebane’s ETJ (extraterritorial jurisdiction), where zoning and land use is controlled by Mebane.  Many of these houses have failing septic systems, some of which were installed in the 1950’s.

 White Level Community (Mebane’s ETJ and Alamance County):  85% African-American, has about 500 residents, 170 houses, and two100-year old African-American churches.  None of the White Level residents have access to Mebane’s water/sewer services eventhough residents are directly across the street from the city limits.  It also has septic system failures.

Buckhorn Road / Perry Hill Community (Mebane’s ETJ and Orange County):  95% African-American.  It has two 100-hundred year old African-American churches, 400 residents, and over 125 houses.  Residents complain of septic system failures and unusable well water.  Across the street a forty-one acre truck stop plaza is in the city limits with water/sewer services. 

The City of Mebane has repeatedly indicated that it would not annex these communities into the city or provide water/sewer services.  Alamance and Orange Counties has yet to provide a solution to the urgent need for safe water and sewer services in these three communities.

Environmental Justice Statues:  The project is necessary because withholding safe water/sewer services from these low-income and minority residents violates the:

1)      Clean Water Act, Section 104 (b)(3)

2)      Safe Drinking Water Act, section 1442(b)(3)

3)      Solid Waste Disposal Act, Section 8001(a)

4)      Clean Air Act, Section 103(b)(3).

 Goals of this project:

1)      Identify necessary improvements in communication and coordination among all stakeholders, including existing community-based/grassroots organizations and local, state, tribal, and federal environmental programs.  Facilitate communication and information exchange, and create partnerships among stakeholders to address disproportionate, high and adverse environmental exposure (e.g., workshops, awareness conferences, establishment of community stakeholder committees); and

 2)      Build community capacity to identify local environmental justice problems and involve the community in the design and implementation of activities to address these concerns.  Enhance critical thinking, problem-solving, and active participation of affected communities (e.g., train-the-trainer programs).



 Patterns of Historic Racial Discrimination:  After the Civil War ended in 1865, whites in Mebane and Alamance County take part in a vicious and violent retaliation against newly freed slaves.  Ku Klux Klan and white secret groups attacked, beat, and murdered Blacks, especially those who had been elected to law enforcement and political offices.  Whites who supported Blacks or attempted to open schools for former slaves were also beaten, murdered, or run out of town.  After nearly five years of the continued violence against Blacks, North Carolina Governor William W. Holden formed an army to put a stop to the lawless violence.  Holden was successful only after gaining the military support of U.S. President Andrew Johnson, who succeeded assassinated President Abraham Lincoln.  Racial hatred was so intense, Holden was forced out office and out of North Carolina for over seven years. (See Exhibit G: Newspaper Articles: “Alamance History Book Exhumes Politics of Gov. Holden”, Mebane Enterprise, 1/30/02)

 Klan threats have been directed at WERA and African American residents since they filed civil rights and environmental justice complaints at the U.S. Department of Justice.  On April 13, 1999, WERA and African American residents spoke out when North Carolina Secretary of Transportation Norris Tolson came to Mebane to promote the 119-Bypass, without mitigation for low-income and minority homeowners.  

 Mayor Glendel Stephenson charged in the meeting room and screamed and yelled at African American residents and frail senior citizens opposed 119-Bypass plans.  A few days later, Mebane City Manager Robert Wilson called WERA’s President Omega Wilson and stated: “I have six good friends and when I die and go to heaven you (Omega Wilson) will be one of them.”  This is a Klan death threat that reference six friends to six bullets in a pistol chamber.

 Current Racial Atmosphere: 

1)      WERA and African American residents of West End and White Level Communities had to file civil rights and environmental justice complaints to the U.S. Department of Justice in order to stop Mebane, Alamance, N.C. Department of Transportation, and the Federal Highway Administration from destroying low-income and minority communities with the 119-Bypass that planned without input or plans for relocation of displaced homeowners.

2)      On April 8, 1999, WERA and African American residents went to the North Carolina General Assembly to seek help from elected officials.  Alamance County Representative Junior Teague laughed at these African American voters and taxpayers and told them that the only way they would get anything done would be to get in the “real city council meetings at Mill Creek Country Club.”  Mill Creek is a white high-income country club that was recently annexed into Mebane city limits.  White Level has adjoining properties but excluded.

3)      In response to WERA’s administrative complaints, on February 19, 1999, U.S. Federal Highway Administration’s Civil Right Officer Wendell Still met with local and state officials to encourage legal compliance (See Exhibit B). Mebane Mayor Glendel Stephenson denied being present for the meeting.  Mebane first and only Black City Councilman Henry Johns stated that Stephenson told him not to attend this meeting.

4)      Since 1999, Mebane officials have continued to refuse to meet with African American in 119-Bypass mitigation proceeding for civil rights and environmental justice compliance as directed by the N.C. Department of Transportation (See Exhibit B).  Mitigation include installation of water and sewer services in West End and White Level, communities “disproportionately and adversely impact” by 119-Bypass construction plans.

5)      As a part of the 119-Bypass mitigation proceeding, the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources has $5,000,000 for water and sewer installation in the”unsewered” communities of West End and White Level.  Mebane applied for these mitigation grant funds to upgrade existing water and sewer lines in downtown Mebane and new industrial size water and sewer lines form in Mebane industrial park for Ford Motor Company (See Exhibit: Newspaper Articles) and (Exhibits C & D).   Mebane officials refused on several occasions to comply with mitigation guidelines and correct the DENR application to qualify for “unsewered” funds and the $5,000,000 grant was thus sabotaged.

6)      In 2000 and 2001, Mebane’s City Council and Planning Board approved long-term growth and facilities plans for millions of dollars.  During city council proceedings, Mebane City Councilman Ed Hooks pointed out to African American residents that West End, White Level, and Buckhorn / Perry Hill communities were redlined out of Mebane’s plans.

7)      Mebane City Councilman Tim Bradley is also N.C. Deputy Insurance Commissioner and Mebane firefighter.  Bradley makes it no secret of effort to maintain an all white Mebane Fire Department.  In 1995, his first comment to African American residents who presented their concerns at a city council meeting: “If you want roads paved in your community, pave them your damn self!”

8)      In direct response to WERA’s EPA study, City Manager Robert Wilson and Darrell Russell, contracted city engineer of Alley, Williams, Carmen, King Inc., reported African American residents with failing septic systems to the Alamance County Environmental Health Department.  Wilson and Russell were harassing and intimidating residents in order to force them to sell their homes and land at condemnation prices to real estate developers with business connection to Mebane City Councilmen.

9)      In direct response to WERA’s EPA study and WERA’s legal counsel, in October 2002 Mebane applied for a block grant (CDBG) for water and sewer installation on Smith Street in West End.  Residents with septic systems failures on one side of Fitch Street were told block money would not be used to correct their problem.  This block grant address only 23 homes out of 500 with this failing septic systems (See Exhibit E).

10)  Newly elected representative (formally a Mebane City Councilman) Alice Bordsen has repeatedly told Omega Wilson that Mebane has no racial problems.

11)  White residents whisper support but are afraid of reprisals if they publicly speak out.  Whites often whisper that Mebane officials must be sued before any real racial and environmental progress will be achieved in Mebane.



West End Community (City of Mebane and Alamance County):  West End, 95% African-American, has about 900 residents, 300 houses, six churches, and Masonic lodge.  About 40% of West End was annexed into the City of Mebane and has voting rights.  The other 60% is in Mebane’s ETJ (extraterritorial jurisdiction), where zoning and land use is controlled by Mebane.  At least 84 of these houses are on old and failing septic systems, some of which were installed in 1950’s. West End is four blocks from downtown Mebane and one-quarter mile from Mebane’s sewage treatment plant.  West End has only two streets that are not dead-end, several dirt streets, and only two blocks that you can drive around.  High crime, substandard houses, “brownfields,” and an eight-acre landfill are destabilizing the community.  (See Maps #2).


White Level Community (Mebane’s ETJ and Alamance County):  The White Level Community is about 85% African-American, has about 500 residents, 170 houses, and two100-year old Africa-American churches.  None of the White Level residents have access to Mebane’s water/sewer services eventhough residents are directly across the street from the city limits. The entire White Level Community is in Mebane’s ETJ, where the city controls land use, provides few services, and residents do not have the right to vote.  It also has substandard housing and is faced with increasing septic system failures.  The new high-income Mill Creek subdivision, which 99% white, is directly across the street, in the city, and has all basic amenities.  (See Maps #3).


Buckhorn Road / Perry Hill Community (Mebane’s ETJ and Orange County):  The Buckhorn Road / Perry Hill Community is 95% African-American.  It has two 100-year old African-American churches, 400 residents, and over 125 houses.  Dozens or these residents complain of septic system failure and some have unusable well water.  None of this community is in Mebane’s city limits, however, just across the street a forty-one acre truck stop plaza is in the city limits with water/sewer services.  Again, 100% of the African-American homeowners in this community are in Mebane’s ETJ, where the city strictly controls land use and provides no service or the right to vote.  (See Maps #4)

Annexation: The City of Mebane has repeatedly indicated that it would not annex these major African-American communities into the city or provide water/sewer services.  Mebane officials have indicated that these residents can apply for “voluntary annexation” but the city is under no obligation to provide water/sewer services or any other basic amenities.  Alamance and Orange Counties has yet to provide a solution to the urgent need for safe water and sewer services in these three low-income and African-American communities.  The Mebane City council completed an annexation study but refused to include the Buckhorn / Perry Hill, major part of West End and White Level. (See Exhibit F)

Housing/Zoning:  The City of Mebane rezoned much of the Buckhorn/Perry Hill community from residential to manufacturing without input from residents.  This illegal zoning has stopped major homes repairs, new home construction, and destabilized affordable housing development.  Mebane and Orange County land-use plans include forcing African American landowners to sell their land to white developers by with-holding water and sewer services.  When whites buy the land, then Mebane’s water/ sewer services are installed.  Petro Truck Plaza is a perfect example of this kind of local government terrorizing people of color.

 Petro Annexation:  Mebane satellite annexed the Petro Truck Plaza, on Buckhorn Road, into the city limits and provided city water and sewer by running lines miles from Mebane’s city limits.  African American residents on adjacent properties have been denied access to Mebane’s water and sewer service in order to solve public health risks.  Mebane City Councilman Robert Hupman stated in a city council meeting that he would not support running a sewer line to Buckhorn / Perry Hill. 

 Churches: There are three churches, two of which founded over 100-years ago.  One of these churches was a victim of the racially motivated church burning listed in the USA Today Newspaper a few years ago. Orange County held-up reconstruction by refusing to issue building permits.  An increased number of house fires in the community and a few fire hydrants make it difficult for homeowners to maintain comprehensive fire insurance, which devalues property.

 Habitat for Humanity Outhouse:  National Public Radio reported several years ago that this was one the few communities to ever have an “outhouse” constructed by Habitat for Humanity due to the lack of infrastructure.

 “No Man’s Land”: On May 16, 2002, the Orange County Water Summit discussed long-term plans for water and sewer service improvements for Orange, Durham, Wake, Alamance and Chatham Counties.  The Buckhorn/Perry Hill community was on the agenda; however, residents had not been informed of the summit. Orange County Commissioner Barry Jacobs stated that Buckhorn/Perry Hill is in “No Man’s Land.”  Neither Orange nor Mebane have applied for federal grants (block, HUD, USDA) to fund water/sewer installation, not even to mitigate public health risks.  On September 9, 2002, Mebane City Councilman Bob Hupman stated that he will not support residents with failing septic systems and contaminated wells connecting to water/sewer lines already in the community at the Petro Truck stop.  Tim Bradley, Deputy Commission of the North Carolina Department of Insurance, is also a long time member of Mebane’s racially conservative city council.  (See Exhibit G)



1.      To conduct educational workshops for residents in the target sites with special input from the: Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Department of Environmental and Natural Resources (DENR), and Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).

 2.      To conduct surveys, investigation and research relating to the causes and effects to human health and the environment from leaking septic systems and contaminated drinking water sources under CWA (section symbol) 104(b)(3) and SDWA (section symbol) 1442(b)(2) and convey the results of such investigations to the community and local health officials." 

3.      To get input for remedies and solutions from the stakeholders: a) residents, b) Mebane, c) Alamance County and Orange County, and d) public health officials.

4.      To fully review and evaluate the pros and cons of maintaining the status qua, and/or remedying with city and/or county water/sewer services.

5.      To support activities of planning, funding, and installation of water/sewer services for the long-term public health and safety of current and future residents.

 PROJECT METHODS / DESIGN:  WERA obtained cooperative involvement from community stakeholders, and developed a series of community leadership training sessions.  WERA served as the primary research agent, monitor/evaluator, and project coordinator for fostering dialogue with community stakeholders.  WERA planned and moderate target community meetings and media presentations.  Direct mail and local media outlets were used as resources for information dissemination.


  1. Training Community Monitors
  2. Survey/Questionnaire
    1. Septic System History
    2. Water Source History
  3. Water Samples
    1. Well Water
    2. Mebane City Water
    3. Orange/Alamance Water
    4. Surface Water (Streams, Ditches, Draining)
  4. Lab Tests (UNC-Chapel Hill, Public Health)

  RESPONDENTS: Water / Sewer Questionnaire Results

 A. Total Respondents

  1. 120    Respondents                                 24%
  2. 500    Residents                                    100%

 B. Composition of Respondent Households

  1. African American                                  335
  2. White                                                     28
  3. Native American                                       5
  4. Other                                                        2
  5. Handicapped/Disabled                            47     

C. County of Residence

  1. Orange                                                   74  
  2. Alamance                                               46

D. West End / White Level / Buckhorn/Perry Hill

  1. Well Water                                             33 
  2. Orange/Alamance Water                        83  
  3. Mebane City Water                                 4



EPA-Environmental Justice Study: Questionnaire Result Tables

 Table >> 1

Source(s) of Drinking Water

1. Well Water


2. Orange/Alamance Water


3. Mebane City Water


 Table >> 2

A. Water Used for:


   1.  Drinking


   2.  Bathing


   3.  Washing Clothes


   4.  Other (Wash Dishes/Water Lawn)


B. Characteristics of Water:


   1.  Taste Bad


   2.  Smell Bad


   3.  Have a Color


   4.  Look Cloudy


C. Characteristics of Water Observed


   1.  Daily


   2.  Weekly


   3.  Monthly


   4.  Spring


   5.  Summer


   6.  Fall


   7.  Winter


 Table >> 3

A.  Construction of Well:


   1.  Dug


   2.  Drilled


   3.  Not Sure


B.  Well Lining:


   1. Rocks/stones


   2. Concrete Pipe


   3. Plastic


   4. Not Sure


C.  Access to Water:


   1. Bucket


   2. Hand Pump


   3. Electric Pump




Table >> 4

Well First Dug:


   1.  1930 > 1940


   2.  1950 > 1960


   3.  1970 > 1980


   4.  1990's


 Table >> 5

Number of Abandoned Wells:


A.  Status of Abandoned Wells:


   1.  Sealed


   2.  Filled


   3.  Capped


   4.  Still Open


B.  Wells in Use>> Distance from

      Abandoned Wells


  1.  25 > 50 ft.


  2.  75 > 100 ft


  3.  125 > 150 ft.


  4.  Over 150 ft.


 Table >> 6

Type of Septic Used:


   1.  Septic System/Tank


   2.  Outhouse


   3.  Mebane City Sewer


 Table >> 7

Distance Between Operating Well  &


Septic Tank/Drainage Lines:


   1.  25 > 50 ft.


   2.  75 > 100 ft.


   3.  125 > 150 ft.


   4. Over 150 ft.




Table >> 8

A. Characteristics of Septic Tank:


   1. Construction of Tank:


      a) Concrete


      b) Cinder Block


      d) Metal


      e) Not Sure


B. Frequency Necessary Cleaning:       

Septic Tank Pumped Out:


   1.  6- months


   2. 12- months


   3.  2- years


   4.  3- years


   5.  5- years


 Table >> 9

Age of Septic Tank:


   1. 0 >   10 Years


   2. 11 > 20 Years


   3. 21 > 30 Years


   4. 31 > 40 Years


   5. 41 > 50 Years


   6. 51 > 60 Years


   7. No Sure


 Table >> 10

A. Septic Tank Size:


   1.  1000 Gallons


   2.  1500 Gallons


   3.  Not Sure


B. Septic Tank/Drainage

     Make Yard Wet:


   1.  Yes


     a) Daily


     b) Weekly


     c) Monthly


     d) Spring


     e) Summer


      f) Fall


     g) Winter


   2.  No Yard Wetness




Table >> 11

A. Septic Tank/Drainage Smell Bad:


   1.  Yes


   2.  No


B. Water from Septic Tank:


   1.  Standing in Yard


   2.  Running Across Yard


C. Septic Backup in Home:


   1.  Yes


   2.  No


 Table >> 12

# of People Use Restroom in a Day:


   1.  One


   2.  Two


   3.  Three


   4.  Four


   5.  Five or More


 Table >> 13

Household Income:


   1.  Under $20,000


   2.  $20-30,000


   3.  $30-40,000


   4.  $40-50,000


   5.  $50-60,000


   6.  Over $60,000




Table >> 14

Urgent Home Repairs Needed:


   1.  Bathroom/Toilet


   2.  Kitchen


   3.  Roof


   4.  Ceiling


   5.  Floors


   6.  Heating


   7.  Cooling


   8.  Electrical


   9.  Other (Windows)


 Table >> 15

Reasons for Supporting Annexation Petition into Mebane City Limits:


   1.  Yes


      a) Water/Sewer Repaired


      b) City Water & Sewer Services


      c) Home Repairs


      d) Right to Vote in Mebane


      e) Voice in Zoning Your Property


   2.  Do Not Support Annexation


 Table >> 16

Age of Home:


   1.  1 >   20 Years


   2.  21 > 40 Years


   3.  41 > 60 Years


   4.  61 > 80 Years


   5.  81 >100 Years




Surveillance of Microbial Contamination in Ground and Surface Water Supplies in Under-Served Minority Communities in Mebane, North Carolina


Christopher D. Heaney, Sacoby M. Wilson, Mark D. Sobsey

University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill School of Public Health


Ground and surface water supplies are vulnerable to microbial contamination.  There exists a particularly high vulnerability of groundwater contamination in rural areas of lower socioeconomic status and minority populations that also have failing on-site sewage treatment systems.

 Obtaining surveillance data on the levels of microbial indicator organisms in these rural ground and surface water supplies would greatly aid in policy decisions concerning public health risks and the need for a publicly regulated and monitored water supply system in three African-American communities in Mebane, North Carolina.  

Well Water Sampling

  1. Water was collected from 53 private residences in Mebane, NC many of which have wells for primary household water use.
  2. Sample collection was performed by local community monitors from the West End Revitalization Association research team.
  3. Each residence was assigned a random code (sample number) by the WERA research team – double blinded.
  4. Samples came from residences that use well water and in some cases Alamance/Orange County and Mebane city water.
  5. Fecal coliforms, E. coli, Enterococci, and total coliphages were analyzed using the Colilert and Enterolert Quanti-tray Most Probable Number (MPN) quantification system, as well as the USEPA Method 1601 for enrichment of coliphages.

 Well Water Sampling Results

  1. The results were negative for all samples except one, which was positive for total coliphages only. In other words indicators of fecal contamination that are viruses and not bacteria.  NOTE: A follow-up test was negative after the homeowner installed a new water line to home.  It is possible that the old compromised water line was absorbing fecal matter from the resident’s nearby septic fields.
  2. Researchers used C3000 coliphages in this test which makes it “total” coliphages.
  3. The sample positive for total coliphages was observed at 0.36 PFU/100 mL.
  4. Repeat sampling analysis at this residence code site resulted in negative results.


 Surface Water Sampling

  1. Surface water samples were collected from streams close to houses with known failing septic systems and analyzed using the same microbial detection methods.
  2. With the help of the WERA research team 7 sites were identified for three rounds of during sample collection.
  3. All samples were collected with the help of WERA community monitors.

 First Round Surface Water Sampling Results

  1. First round of surface water samples collected during extreme drought conditions (6/25/02) showed no evidence of microbial contamination.
  2. Conducted during extreme drought conditions.
  3. Several of the sites selected for sampling were dry creek beds during this period of the summer.

Bacterial Indicators – Second Round of Surface Water Sampling Results

  1. The second batch of 5 samples resulted in levels of contamination exceeding USEPA Maximum Contaminant Limit (MCL) for fecal coliforms, E. coli, and Enterococci in waters to be used for primary contact recreation – Class B (NC DWQ Primary Surface Water Classifications).
  2. Fecal coliforms, E. coli and Enterococci are bacteria whose presence indicates that the water may be contaminated with human or animal wastes.
  3. Disease-causing microbes (pathogens) in these wastes can cause diarrhea, cramps, nausea, headaches, or other symptoms – these pathogens may pose a special health risk for infants, young children, and people with severely compromised immune systems.

 Bacterial Indicators – Third Round of Surface Water Sampling Results

 The third batch of 5 samples also resulted in levels of contamination exceeding USEPA Maximum Contaminant Limit (MCL) for fecal coliforms, E. coli, and Enterococci in waters to be used for primary contact recreation – Class B (NC DWQ Primary Surface Water Classifications).


The importance of the third round surface water test results is the violation of NC General Statute 143-214.1 for Primary Recreation Waters – Class B or SB waters intended for primary recreation (fishing, swimming, etc.).  The state standard regulates fecal coliforms (bacteria) only and can they can not exceed 400 CFU (colony forming units)/100mL in more than 20 percent of the samples examined over a 30day period. 

Third Round of Surface Water Sampling 9/3/02 (after several rain events)





Bacterial Indicator Analysis




Fecal Coliforms

 CFU/100 mL

      E. coli

 CFU/100 mL

Enterococcus CFU/100 mL

Site 1




Site 3




Site 4




Site 6




Site 7




 Look at the “Fecal Coliforms” bar graph cluster.  There are 5 out of 5 samples that are above the 400 CFU/100mL standards.  That makes 100% of the seven surface water samples positive for the third round that are out of compliance with NC GS 143-214.1.  All five surface water sampling sites flow through the backyards of homes, churches, and businesses. This contaminated water is easily accessible to children, adults, and domestic animals. NOTE: One resident reported to community monitors that a complete litter of eleven puppies died after drinking from one of the surface water sample sites.

Site #1 is at the convergent of two constant streams that flow through the eight-acre landfill at West Holt Street and Madison Street.  This site was originally chosen a control since it is in the section of the West End Community that is in the Mebane City Limits.  The surface water flow into the Cape Fear Basis.

Human Fecal Origin: This is the identification for the Enterococci group of bacterial indicators.  They all were confirmed using the API 20 Strep system as being of human fecal origin – either Enterococcus faecalis or Enterococcus faecium.  (E. faecalis, E. faecium same thing).  Notice the Positive Control (our own laboratory stock of human fecal origin Enterococci ID’s the same as the laboratory testing control samples at the School of Public Health, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill samples). 


API 20 Strep Enterococci ID 

API 20 Strep ID









Site 1


E. faecium

E. faecium


Site 2


E. faecalis

E. faecalis


Site 3


E. faecium

E. faecium


Site 4


E. faecalis

E. faecalis


Site 5


E. faecalis

E. faecalis


Positive Control

E. faecium




 Surface water samples were positive for Total Coliphages which are a viral indicator for fecal contamination.  NC doesn’t regulate these in primary recreation waters, but these should not be in your water at high levels – 46 PFU/100mL at Site 4.

 General Observation on Screening/Testing and Results

  1. The results of this study suggest the possible need to address the failing septic systems and lack of adequate water supply services in these communities in Mebane, North Carolina.
  2. Repeat sampling would provide more information on the seasonal variability of microbial levels in well and surface waters during non-drought conditions.

3.      When Site #1 surface water sample were collected some residents in the section of West End that is in Mebane City limits approached monitors to inform them of sewer line problems.  Alamance County block grant (CDBG) installed “paper” city sewer lines from 1978-80.  Orangeburg Pipe (Bermico) was manufactured during the Korean War.  It is a paper tape type pipe with a tar treatment.  Its life expectancy is typically 30 years.  In older neighborhoods, Orangeburg Pipe has mostly been replaced or abandoned. This pipe is used on the exterior to make the connection from the home to the street sewer collection line.  Orangeburg Pipe is susceptible to damage from routing, collapse from age, and tree root penetration.  Cary, North Carolina, recently replaced Orangeburg “paper” pipe.


  1. Age, structure, land absorption compromise septic system.
  2. Orange/Alamance Water System which serves many of the study’s target households is suffering with problems, as a result of drought, and reduced alternative water supplies, primarily Mebane.  Mebane is also seeking to purchase Orange/Alamance Water, which creates for a more uncertain future for safe drinking water for target communities (See Newspaper Articles)
  3. Compromised septic systems have created major health risks to well water and surface water in the three target communities.


  1. Environmental justice violations identified in our study include public health risks exposures for which we are officially petitioning complete and prompt investigations:
    1. Underground storage tank leakage of petroleum and other toxic furniture processing chemical spills on the site of Craftique Furniture Company on U.S. 70-Highway, west of Mebane.   We have not identified any North Carolina Department of Environmental Resources clean-ups plans for these toxic chemicals that threaten well water for West End residents and groundwater supply.  (See Photograph #2 )
    1. Evidence of levels of contamination far exceeding USEPA Maximum Contaminant Limit (MCL) for fecal coliforms, E. coli, and Enterococci in waters to be used for primary contact recreation – Class B (NC DWQ Primary Surface Water Classifications).  Surface water samples were tested from two streams that flow through an eight-acre landfill at West Holt and Madison Streets in Mebane’s city limits.  Public health is threatened from: 1) landfill’s putrid gases and orders; and underground storage and disposal tanks on the edge of the landfill; 2) an old abandoned oil company, 3) an old service station, and 4) an old auto paint/body shop with numerous junk vehicles and deposed auto fluids on the banks of the streams.  (See Photograph #1)
    1. In September 2002, the City of Mebane and the North Carolina Department of Transportation recently presented a plan to construct the 119-Bypass overpass anchored in Craftique Furniture migrating petroleum spill.  Mebane and NCDOT have addressed cleanup of petroleum spill under EPA guidelines in order to protect residents, St. Luke Christian Church, or groundwater. (See Photograph #3)
  1. After testing and analysis, the West End Revitalization Association request clean-up at the petroleum spill and landfill sites and installation of monitoring wells in order to protect homeowners, their property value, and their health.
  2. WERA will use its EPA study results to seek legal compliance with EPA guidelines from local governments and state regulators.  This includes compliance with 119-Bypass mitigation, toxic waste clean-up, waste management and Clean Water Act, Section 104 (b)(3); Safe Drinking Water Act, section 1442(b)(3); Solid Waste Disposal Act, Section 8001(a); Clean Air Act, Section 103(b)(3).
  3. Local, state, and federal government officials will be encouraged to develop and fund an emergency plan to eliminate public health risks in low-income and minority communities. This would include these communities into recently approved Mebane long-term growth and facilities appropriations. 
  4. WERA will seek future financial and technical support for a complete inventory of environmental hazards, risks exposures, and violations that affect Mebane’s low-income and minority communities.  



  1. Press releases on the results of WERA’s EPA Environmental Justice study will be forwarded to local and regional media outlets.
  2. Summary of the results will be forwarded directly to all Community Monitors who helped with the study and each household that responded to WERA’s EPA study questionnaire.
  3. Complete copies and all exhibits of the study will be provided to local public libraries in Alamance County and Orange County.  
  4. Copies of WERA EPA study will be made available to local government officials in Mebane, Alamance County, and Orange County.  Results will be forwarded the N.C. Department of Environmental and Natural Resources, and Governor Mike Easley’s office.

 EVALUATION:  WERA’s EPA Environmental Justice Small Grant study was a success.  Outcomes were a mixture of expected results and unexpected results.  Failure of septic systems due to age, structural compromise, and diminished soil absorption were expected.  The unexpected results were Craftique Furniture Company petroleum spill with no EPA clean-up plans, major human waste contamination in West End section of the Mebane City limits, and Orangeburg “paper” pipe.  

 It is clear that more detailed environmental assessments are needed in order to determine levels of continued environmental justice investigations necessary to resolve the water/sewer crisis and public health risks in low-income and African-American communities.

The lack of cooperation from local governments indicates the need for greater legal actions in order to encourage compliance with environmental justice, public health codes, and social justice. 

West End Revitalization Association

Community-Based Environmental Protection  *  Community Development Corporation

EPA-EJ Study
Home Up Vision History Project Timeline Maps Comment

Cherish Every Drop of Water You Drink

     On November 14, 2003, the West End Revitalization Association - WERA celebrated it ninth anniversary at the Annual Fundraising Awards Dinner. Young adult members of WERA's DREAM-Network hosted this special occasion.

     We were blessed the presence of friends, family, and community partners. This Enviro-Art called "Cherish" by Kojo E. Wilson was presents as awards. The short poem below was written in recognition of the "Cherish" and each dinner guests, board member, and community partner was encouraged to add lines or verses in dedication to the poem. WERA needs everyone's support and commitment to eliminate environmental hazards that threaten the public health of Mebane's low-income and minority communities.

Cherish Every Drop of Water You Drink,
 Cherish every leaf that’s green,
 Cherish every hand keeping it clean,” (Omega Wilson)


Cherish every tree on Earth,

Cherish every ounce of air,

Cherish every child’s birth,

Cherish every river and stream both far and near,

Cherish the light of the day,

Cherish the places where we play,

Cherish the legacy of Black struggles in this nation,

Cherish the hopes, dreams, and success of our future generations, (Sacoby Wilson)

Cherish the land that you own, (Marilyn Snipes)

Cherish the land where we live, (Steve Smull)

Cherish the land of your family and community, (Author Unknown)

Cherish everything far and near maybe sewer and clean water, (Emma Holt)

Cherish the clean water that you drink, (James Minor)

Cherish everyday that you’ve dreamed, (Wilma Crisp)

Cherish tomorrow only if we keep the dream, (Evon Connally)

Cherish hopes and dreams, (Mary P. Williamson)



Cherish everyone who is trying to keep the dream for you and me, (Author Unknown)

Cherish everything that will help you live your dreams, (Author Unknown)

Cherish every breath you take,

Cherish life for all our sakes, (Shelby Pittman & Giovanni Pittman)

Cherish where you live and what you own, (Cleatis D. Harris)

Cherish everything you see and hear, (Selena Harris)

Cherish your time, It waits for no one, (Shawn Garner)

Cherish community love and support, (Claudia Liggins)

Cherish keeping the ground green, (Author Unknown)



Cherish neighbors that you love from below and above, (Author Unknown)

Cherish clean body and souls, (Pattie Fowler)

Cherish your health and spirit, don’t just grin and bear it, (Rachel Hester)

Cherish the manner and beauty with which all the parts need each other, (Author Unknown)

Cherish every connection you make,

Cherish every barrier you break, (Author Unknown)

Cherish the man who has given us understanding, (Author Unknown)

Cherish every person the same. (Author Unknown)



Home Vision History Project Timeline Maps News Comment Donation

P.O. Box 661, Mebane, NC 27302 - Phone/FAX (919) 563-8857

 Email: West End Revitalization Association

Copyright 2002/2003 by West End Revitalization Association