Thousands of rotting potatoes first thought to be sewer spill

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Thick, black, smelly runoff fouls ditches near Vandemere

Culled potatoes are often plowed under in agricultural fields. But not so here.

This ditch, fill with rotting potatoes, leads to a tributary of Vandemere Creek.

HIGHWAY 304 NEAR VANDEMERE – Turns out a hasty and costly Saturday morning sewer line replacement in a ditch near Hollyville Trailer Park was not needed – although the error did not become evident until two days later. Monday morning a small army of trucks from Bay River Metropolitan Sewerage District returned to the site, where an extensive ‘bypass’ of a suspected leak had been performed just two days earlier.

Much to the chagrin of Chris Venters, superintendent of the utility, and other staffers more of the ‘black water’ had returned.

But something just did not seem right?


Staffers with Bay River Metropolitan Sewerage District discovered Monday morning that the noxious liquid was not the result of a sewer spill.

We’ll fast forward through a few minutes of some serious head-scratching. Venters, reluctantly, bit the bullet and ordered what looked to be an extensive pump-out operation, even summoning bigger tankers and more manpower from a third-party contractor.

Now, how can we put this? The smell, though disgusting, did not exactly mesh with an aroma that is very familiar to all of these guys. In fact, one worker – who shall remain nameless – said “our discriminating olfactory senses” were telling these experts that this stuff was bad – but it was not human waste!

“Maybe somebody has done some illegal dumping,” Venters wondered out loud.

Hog farm somewhere? Chicken waste? Who knows what it could be?

While a large hose from the utility’s 1500-gallon pump-out truck was lowered into a deep ditch inundated with the stuff, some good old-fashioned investigative work began. And, sure enough, about a half-mile away (as the crow flies) the culprit became readily apparent. Tons and tons of potatoes, left to rot in a massive ditch and along its slopes.

Suddenly this had become somebody else’s problems. Shaking his head, Venters pulled out his cell phone, and called the third party contractor – sort of a hired gun who does big-time pump-outs.

“Mac,” said Venters, “it ain’t sewer. It’s rotting potatoes. So, I guess we don’t need to pump their stuff.”

Calls by this newspaper to the farm manager, and to the Pamlico County Health Director, had not been returned by press time of The County Compass.

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