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N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources

Release: Immediate
Date: Jan. 4, 2012
Contact: Tom Mather
Phone: (919) 707-8447; (919) 218-0441


Smoke from Carteret County Landfill Fires May Pose Health Concerns

RALEIGH - People who live near two smoldering landfill fires in Carteret County should take precautions to avoid breathing the smoke, state air quality officials said today.

Both landfill fires have been contained and are each less than two acres. However, smoke from the fires could contain harmful levels of pollutants that can pose health hazards for people who are sensitive to air pollution. Sensitive groups include children, older adults, people with heart or respiratory problems, and people who exercise or work outdoors.

The primary pollutants of concern are carbon monoxide and fine particles. Both pollutants can be unhealthy to breathe, and smoke exposure also may cause coughing and eye, nose and throat irritation.

"People who live near this fire should stay inside as much as possible and avoid strenuous outdoor activities," said Dr. J.T. Garrett, public health director for Carteret County. "Nearby residents, particularly sensitive groups, should consult their physicians if they experience symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, weakness, sleepiness, persistent coughing, wheezing, shortness of breath, chest pains, confusion or disorientation."

The fires are at landfills off Miller Farm Road in Morehead City and Herring-Smith Road in Newport. Both landfills are used to dispose of debris from hurricanes and land clearing activities. While the fires have been contained, state and local firefighters are having trouble putting out the fires because of difficulty in reaching the burning material, which is buried under layers of dirt and debris. Similar fires at other landfills have sometimes burned for weeks.

For those reasons, field inspectors with the state Division of Waste Management have been on-scene advising firefighters on techniques to smother the fire. One technique being used at the Miller Farm Road fire involves using an excavator to expose hot spots and then dousing those areas with water, said Ray Williams, a field inspector with the division's solid waste section.

"We are closely monitoring this situation," said Sheila Holman, director of the state Division of Air Quality. "Residents should exercise particular caution if they live or work in areas that are directly within the smoke plume from the fire."

For more information about the landfills, contact Jamie Kritzer, public information officer with the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources at (919) 707-8602. For more information about air quality issues, contact Tom Mather, public information officer with the N.C. Division of Air Quality, at (919) 218-0441 or visit the division's website at www.ncair.org .

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Diana Kees, Communications Director
Phone (919) 707-8626
1601 Mail Service Center 
Raleigh, NC 27699-1601
diana.kees@ncdenr.gov
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Last Modified: Wed January 04 16:00:00 2012
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