Human fecal bacteria confirmed in Whitmire’s yard

Published 9:42 pm Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Tryon expects to discuss test results Friday

Human bacteroides, or cells of human specific fecal bacteria, were found in Tryon resident Eunice Whitmire’s yard and crawl space, according to soil samples taken at the residence.

Air samples also determined a type of mold in her home.

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The Town of Tryon ordered soil and air samples through John Salmon, with Air & Moisture LLC following concerns over town sewage water spilling into Whitmire’s yard for almost 14 years.

The air samples were sent to EMSL Analytical Inc. in Kernersville, N.C. and the soil samples sent to their laboratory in Cinnaminson, N.J.

“The soil samples on the left side yard were negative for human bacteroides and one of the two samples on the right side of the yard was positive at 1,774 cell equivalents/gram of soil,” said Salmon’s analysis of the report. “The second sample on the right side of the yard was negative. The crawl space sample was positive for human bacteroides with a cell equivalent count/gram of soil at 628. In layman’s terms this can be described as cells of human specific fecal bacteria for a gram of the sample taken.”

The air samples, taken outside, in Whitmire’s living room and rear hallway found Asperigullus/Penicillium. According to Salmon’s analysis, the outside air sample is taken to set a baseline for air-borne molds.

“The goal of air testing is to identify air-borne molds and fungi in the interior samples that are greater than the outside sample,” stated Salmon’s analysis. “The only contaminate found to meet this criteria is Asperigullus/Penicillium. This organism is commonly found in homes, but can cause broncho-pulmonary problems for individuals with asthmatic conditions. It is a potential pathogen for anyone with lung disease. This mold grows in a wide range of substrates, but is prevalent in water-damaged structures. This mold is the second most common opportunistic pathogen. The remaining molds and spores identified are prevalent in soils and from decaying plants.”

Tryon recessed its Tuesday, June 18 meeting until Friday, June 28 at 3 p.m. in order to approve its 2013-2014 budget. Tryon Town Manager Joey Davis said since Friday’s meeting will be a continuation of the June 18 meeting, council can discuss the results of the samples.

He said he’s asked specific questions to a microbiologist to determine what treatments, if any, can be done based on some of the results and he hopes his questions are answered prior to Friday’s meeting.

The Bulletin has made numerous phone calls and spoken to a few employees with the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), both in Asheville and Raleigh to interpret the results in terms of potential hazards to Whitmire. The Bulletin also unsuccessfully attempted to contact septic officials with the Rutherford-Polk-McDowell Health District.

Division of Water Quality Surface Water Protection Section Supervisor Chuck Cranford said there is no normal range for human feces in soil for the state of North Carolina.  He said DENR’s monitoring of town’s water and sewer systems are to ensure their permits are in compliance.

Davis said the town does understand that some of the soil samples came back positive for human bacteroides, a sign of human feces, which was expected and validates what the town knows, that obviously, there has been spillage at Whitmire’s property.

“What we don’t understand is the relevance of the numbers,” said Davis. “For example, I can tell you relevance for numbers say, if we are doing a carbon monoxide investigation, what’s average, what concerns us, etc.”

He said those are the questions the town has sent to a microbiologist, to explain the significance of the numbers in terms of the severity.

“We aren’t sure of what the next step is at this point until we are certain of what the numbers reflect and what, if anything, can be done,” said Davis.

Tryon spent approximately $1,000 on the testing.

The town has also sent the results of the testing to Whitmire’s attorney, Gene Johnson. Johnson attended council’s June 18 meeting saying he plans to initiate action against the town, but was waiting on the soil and air test results to return prior to filing a suit. As of press time yesterday, no lawsuits had been filed against Tryon at the Polk County Courthouse.