Mattamy Homes regrets and apologizes for the massive sediment spill into Lake Wylie from one of its new residential communities, but the greater focus right now is getting the site cleaned up and making sure another spill doesn’t follow, a company leader said.
On Tuesday, Mattamy Homes Charlotte division president Mike McElroy sent a letter with the most specific details yet on what happened with the August spill and what’s being done to repair areas damaged by it.
“The recent failure of the earth dam in Mattamy’s Ridgewater community, and the resulting flow of water and sediment from our property, was an unfortunate accident that we deeply regret and apologize for,” McElroy wrote. “Since the time of the accident, our staff, as well as contractors and partners, have been working as hard as possible to repair and clean up the damage, with resolution of this matter as their top priority.”
Ridgewater is in North Carolina, but is immediately upstream of York County properties in the Torrence Creek area. Several residents spoke out at the last Lake Wylie Marine Commission meeting citing significant damage to their properties after massive amounts of mud and water ran into the cove near them. Catawba Riverkeeper Sam Perkins, who sent his own letter to public officials and water experts Sept. 8 updating the situation, on multiple occasions called the spill “the worst” of its kind he’s seen covering the river.
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“This is the worst off-site sedimentation incident I have ever seen, and I have fielded countless calls from upset people, even those who don't live nearby, but who recreate in the area,” he wrote in the recent letter.
McElroy’s letter stated repair and cleanup are the immediate focus, though discovering the cause of the break is important. A contractor is operating a pump at the site around the clock to keep the water level low in the pond. Water is being pumped into a silt collection bag to remove sediment before discharging it downstream.
He noted the dam in question hadn’t failed prior, though there were two “minor issues in the past related to heavy rain” unrelated to the dam failure. He also confirmed what Perkins and other since found —that initial concerns of a sewage spill in the area were unfounded.
“There is no sewage on the site at all, as the first homes are just now being constructed,” McElroy wrote.
The breached area of the dam has been repaired. Sediment on Mattamy property has been removed using a plan approved by city of Charlotte engineers. Cleaning of nearby sites remains an ongoing process.
“We have been making every effort to implement clean-up activities on land outside our property,” McElroy wrote. “Because these lands are owned by private property owners, we require the permission of the land owners to enter.”
All property owners were asked for permission, and work began once the company got it, McElroy said. One property owner, who suffered most of the sediment deposit, “is refusing to allow clean-up on his property,” according to the letter. Mattamy will continue efforts to get permission to clean up there.
Removal of floating debris is “substantially complete.” A temporary silt curtain was installed at the headwaters of the downstream cove. An environmental consultant did core sampling of the cove, with three samples showing sediment from the breach in the stream channel and upland. Samples didn’t indicate sediment from the breach in the cove itself.
McElroy wrote the company is “doing everything we can” and will continue to keep stakeholders informed of progress.
“We have prioritized the repair and clean-up in the ranking of importance to the environment and where we had permission to do so,” he wrote.
“Our staff and contractors have been working day and night, and three different engineering firms have been analyzing all aspects of the repair, remediation and what will probably be the dam reconstruction.”