Wake County News

Cary holds Facebook town hall to discuss sewer water testing for opioids

CARY, N.C. (WNCN) - Cary residents are looking for answers about the town's project that tests some of the town's wastewater for drugs. 

Monday, Cary's deputy town manager, Mike Bajorek, hosted a town hall via Facebook to take questions and offer people a closer look at the device that's sampling the sewer water. 

About a month ago, the town started using the devices to test wastewater in select locations for 16 different drugs, including heroin and prescription opioids. Town leaders said the goal is finding areas with high levels of opioid use, and ultimately finding ways to help people who are abusing drugs. 

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"It's a nationwide major issue it seems like Cary is trying to keep up with," said Ray Russell, who lives in the town.

Paul Sausman said he does have a concern, though. "The first thing that goes through my mind is I don't want to have privacy issues," he said. 

Town leaders tried to ease privacy concerns by by explaining that the devices sample only a tiny amount of water, and each area tested has between 4,000 and 16,000 people in it.  

"We don't want to test that [one] person's wastewater," Bajorek said. "We want to test the 15,000 or 14,999 other people's waste water, also; 800,000 gallons over a day's period. It's de-identifiable."

"As long as they're not finite enough to say that this neighborhood has an issue I think it's okay," Sausman said. "But, if they start targeting areas and saying there's a drug issue here, I think that might be a privacy issue there."

Town leaders insist that won't happen. They also emphasized that all funding for the project comes from a Bloomberg Philanthropies grant, not taxpayer money. They hope the data collected will one day help public health agencies to adjust their programs and save more lives. 

For more information on the project, click here.


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