Why alligators with orange heads are showing up around the Cape Fear region

If you take a walk around Greenfield Lake, or any spot alligators tend to frequent in the Cape Fear, you may notice many have orange markings on their heads.

  WECT Investigates: Medicaid and ER visits — a look at expenses, expansion

  State elections board issues order in Columbus County Sheriff dispute, parties plan appeals

  Prison administrator’s ‘inaccurate’ documentation increased risk for vehicle misuse, audit finds

Watching Your Wallet: Spring housing market secrets revealed

  WECT Investigates: Allegations of mismanagement renewed as Yahweh Center bankruptcy case continues

More filters targeting PFAS part of CFPUA’s 10-year capital improvement plan

Continued Coverage

State officials require towns to monitor emerging compounds in Cape Fear River Basin

  DNA Detectives: Scientists combining forensics with genealogy break ‘unsolvable’ cases

  Election deception: WECT Investigates spillover of absentee ballot irregularities in Columbus County

  Industry experts concerned with local handyman’s work: ‘He could potentially kill someone’

  Town of Belville appeals judge’s decision on H2GO

  Failed and Forgotten

  A trifecta of failures puts kids at risk

When children die because of abuse or neglect, child protection agencies are often blamed – they are underfunded and overworked. But there are many other culprits who failed children.

  Digital rollbacks: Millions of cars have false mileage on odometers

Carfax experts say there are potentially more than one million cars on the roads with false odometer readings - meaning their mileage has been rolled back to make the vehicles look like they have less wear and tear.

  Utility documents list acting sheriff’s purported residence as commercial account with cow barn

Documents subpoenaed from Duke Energy shed new light on concerns that acting Columbus County Sheriff Jody Greene may not have lived in the county prior to his election as required by state law. The documents also indicate there has been an address change on the account.

Attorney issues statement on class action lawsuit against Chemours

According to Ted Leopold, co-lead counsel for the plaintiffs, the federal judge’s move is another step in the right direction.

  Drain on the system: Stormwater infrastructure in focus in the wake of Florence

  CFPUA welcomes newly introduced Gen X-related bill

Proposed Gen X-related bill would target Chemours, form task force

No PFAS found in drinking water at CFPUA plant but some detected in three wells

Watching Your Wallet: Experts give advice on reining in your tax refund

  Wrightsville Beach Board of Aldermen approve conditions of water agreement with CFPUA

  Wrightsville Beach races to supplement water supply before summer rush after contaminated well shut down

One of Wrightsville Beach's most productive water wells has been shut down since January because of chemical contamination.

CFPUA staff gets OK to move forward with Sweeney Plant upgrades

The CFPUA board unanimously approved a resolution Wednesday that authorizes Executive Director Jim Flechtner to complete design and permitting for the project as well as obtain bond funding and construction bids.

  Another deputy seeking back pay from Columbus Co., says acting sheriff didn’t have authority to fire him

“It is Mr. Campbell’s position that, due to the N.C. State Board of Elections position that Mr. Green’s [sic] election was never certified, Mr. Green was without legal or actual authority to either demote or terminate Mr. Campbell.”

Charter school group to withdraw application for new Pender County school

State officials confirmed they have received word the application will be withdrawn.

  Undercounting hate: FBI will not report its hate crime numbers again this year as required by law

The Uniform Crime Reporting Act of 1988 requires federal law enforcement agencies to submit information about their cases to a federal database maintained by the FBI; however, those agencies are currently not submitting data, including information about hate crimes.

  A year later, slow movement at Independence Mall

A year later, there are only limited signs of progress for the makeover of Independence Mall.

  Acting sheriff fired deputies despite uncertain election results

In the midst of unprecedented confusion in Columbus County over who should be serving as sheriff, some deputies have been terminated from their job. While North Carolina law generally gives sheriffs broad latitude to fire at will, pending legal challenges bring the recent firings under scrutiny.

  CFPUA’s application for $46M grant denied by state

The Cape Fear Public Utility Authority wanted the money to pay for new granular activated carbon (GAC) filters meant to filter GenX and other PFAS compounds out of drinking water.

  Failure to Protect: Citizens demand answers regarding White Oak Dike

Exactly six months after the White Oak Dike breached and sent floodwaters spilling into the community of Kelly, the small community’s residents took their local elected officials to task.

  Search continues for Holden Beach woman reported missing on Friday

Capt. J. Dixon with the Holden Beach Police Department said in an email Tuesday afternoon that the investigation into Judy Brock’s disappearance is ongoing.

  Reverse osmosis filtering system working at NHC landfill

New Hanover County is filtering out per- and polyfluorinated chemicals (PFAS) at its landfill, according to sampling results from the NC Department of Environmental Quality.

  Protecting your voice: Restoring voter confidence in the wake of election fraud

After election fraud put the national spotlight on Southeastern North Carolina, WECT Investigates took a look at how other Cape Fear area counties fared in 2018.

  Watching Your Wallet: Thousands of consumer complaints hidden in federal watchdog database

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau provides information about financial institutions, including complaints. But NerdWallet and InvestigateTV have found examples of complaints that don't show up in the database.

Permit issued for Chemours to install oxidizer aimed at reducing PFAS air emissions

The permit incorporates the requirements of a consent order signed Feb. 25 to install the oxidizer by Dec. 31 and reduce all PFAS emissions by 99 percent beyond the 2017 baseline.

  Case involving inmate’s amputated penis among lawsuits filed against county

WECT has uncovered millions of dollars in additional payouts by New Hanover County and the City of Wilmington to settle lawsuits and claims, raising the grand total spent by local governments to at least $16.6 million.

CFPUA sees spike in 1,4-dioxane levels in water from Cape Fear River

Results released this week show 1,4-dioxane of 1.8 parts per billion (ppb) in raw water on Feb. 13 and 0.54 ppb in the finished water treated at the Sweeney Water Treatment Plant on Feb. 14.

  Federal investigators issue subpoenas in NC-9 investigation

The Department of Justice has issued subpoenas for a federal grand jury investigation into allegations of election fraud in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District.

  City, county, schools spent $9 million settling lawsuits over 5+ years

While some agencies went to great lengths to comply, an attorney for New Hanover County strategized with her colleagues about minimizing what they’d provide in response to our request. Some claimants were also ordered not to talk to the media about the terms of the settlement funded by taxpayers.

  New Hanover Co. school system one of few in the state to have attorney on staff

WECT has learned that most NC school districts, even some of the largest ones, opt to contract with outside attorneys on an as-needed basis rather than hire an attorney to serve on staff. While some feel the in-house attorney is an asset, others said they think it's an obstacle.

  Wilmington hibachi restaurant shut down over low inspection grade

A Hibachi restaurant in Wilmington was closed indefinitely last week and its permit revoked after county health inspectors found nearly 30 violations at the business.

Original copies of 1898 black-owned newspaper rediscovered

A significant part of Wilmington’s black history has been rediscovered by a New York Times Magazine writer, some Wilmington students and a researcher.

Documents: Slaughterhouse union officers spent funds on all-inclusive vacation, trip to SeaWorld

The former two top officers of the union representing thousands of workers at Smithfield Foods siphoned off hundreds of thousands of dollars in union funds for personal use.

Court approves order to stop PFAS from entering Cape Fear River

A judge has approved a consent order requiring Chemours to do more to protect drinking water for residents in southeastern North Carolina.

State records contradict sheriff’s candidate’s address history

Documents unearthed through a subpoena appear to show contradictory information about when Columbus County Sheriff candidate Jody Greene lived in that county. Greene's residency is the subject of an ongoing challenge to his legal eligibility to serve as sheriff.

  Cold hold: Despite years of notice, 40 percent of SENC restaurants violated stricter refrigeration rule

This four-degree difference applies to restaurants, cafés, school cafeterias, grocery stores, gas stations, caterers, hotels, and any other type of food service facility requiring health department inspection.

CFPUA praises Chemours’ requirements in revised consent order; will reconsider pending legal action

The Cape Fear Public Utility Authority is reconsidering its motion against Chemours after the chemical company filed a revised legal agreement with the state Department of Environmental Quality on Wednesday.

  Chemours agrees to analyze Cape Fear River sediment in updated legal agreement with DEQ, Cape Fear River Watch

The updated agreement will now require Chemours to report monthly GenX air emissions, analyze PFAS buildup in river sediment, and provide filtration systems in certain public buildings for drinking water fountains and maintain them for 20 years.

  NCDEQ holds public hearing on Chemours in Bladen County

The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality’s Division of Air Quality will hold a public meeting and hearing Monday on a draft air permit for Chemours to install and operate a thermal oxidizer/scrubber system for emission control at their Fayetteville Works Facility.

  Watching Your Wallet: Experts explain the new tax code in simple terms

With sweeping tax code changes affecting this year's filings, experts from NerdWallet help explain how the changes will work for different people.

  Hate crimes in the Cape Fear: How local trends compare to national trends

Hate crimes across the country have increased by 17 percent from 2016 to 2017, according to the FBI. Locally, though, the Cape Fear area hasn’t seen the same trend. Numbers have consistently fluctuated between seven to nine incidents each year.

  With hearing set to begin, a look back at the election fraud investigation

The North Carolina State Board of Elections will take up the query into alleged fraud in the state’s 9th district and beyond on Monday, Feb. 18, but the road to the Raleigh hearing has been long and winding.

  Untested water: 99.9 percent of foreign fish goes without testing for unsafe drugs

According to government reports, there is evidence that the main oversight agency for seafood, the Food and Drug Administration, has failed to meet new mandates to increase inspections at foreign food facilities.

  Rouzer says office can do little to help with White Oak Dike, will look at flood mitigation

As the people of Kelly and greater Bladen County look at what can be done to protect the community from future floods, options are limited.

  Final documents set stage for election fraud hearing

On Tuesday, Feb. 12, parties on both sides of the aisle submitted their final argument briefs for consideration, as well as a list of witnesses attorneys intend to call.

  Millions of dollars are needed to repair the White Oak Dike, but where will the money come from?

It will cost millions to repair the White Oak Dike, and as of right now, officials are unsure of how those repairs would be paid for.

  Failure to Protect: Decades of dike’s neglect leave residents with unanswered questions

WECT investigates the history of the White Oak Dike, and how decades of miscommunication put hundreds of people at risk during and after Hurricane Florence.

  State concerned over Columbus County board’s dismissal of election protest on technicality

Email from State Board of Elections attorney Joshua Lawson to Columbus County attorney Amanda Prince raises questions about the Columbus County Board of Elections' handling of a protest filed in the sheriff’s race.

  While working, claiming residence in Columbus County, acting sheriff routinely gassed patrol car in Lumberton

Jody Greene was stationed in Columbus County and claimed to live there on property in Cerro Gordo. Oddly, he routinely filled up in neighboring Robeson County, well across the county line and nearly 30 minutes from his alleged residence.

  NHCS board declines citizen request for investigation

The New Hanover County School Board has declined a request for an independent investigation into its handling of serious issues, including concerns their inaction helped sexual predators prey on students.

80,000 driver’s records wrong due to DMV computer glitch

The driving records of tens-of-thousands of North Carolinians are incorrect in the North Carolina Division of Motor Vehicles’ computer system, internal documents obtained by WBTV show.

Interim college president draws six-figure salary while his own search firm looks for successor

WECT has learned the interim president of the college also works for the firm hired to conduct the college’s presidential search, a fact that isn’t sitting well with some college employees.

  Calculating hate: Federally mandated count leaves out untold number of crimes in America

Serious hate crimes from murders to attempted bombings do not show up in federal hate crime data, according to analysis by InvestigateTV.

Punishing hate: Paper tiger laws serve up little to no penalties for attackers

Prosecutors say some state hate crime laws are so weak they "aren't worth the paper they're printed on."

  Multiple sex offenders found on Facebook despite ban

Under Facebook's policies, convicted sex offenders are not allowed on the site; however, InvestigateTV identified multiple offenders who appeared to have recently active profiles.

  Landfill’s lifespan ‘drastically reduced’ as Florence recovery, area growth squeeze resources

Months after Florence, high volumes of debris and other materials are causing long lines and space concerns at the New Hanover County landfill.

  Months after storm, who will pay for debris removal in gated neighborhoods still up in the air

One of the requirements FEMA has an issue with is whether or not the removal was “in the public interest."

  Greene pays $25K bond to keep sheriff’s seat, for now

Acting Columbus County Sheriff Jody Greene has posted a $25,000 bond to keep his seat as sheriff, for now. Wake County Superior Court Judge Graham Shirley ordered Greene to pay that bond as part of an ongoing legal dispute over who is the rightful sheriff of Columbus County.

VA will work to recover improper payments if fraud confirmed

WECT first uncovered the unusually high rental rate during a series of investigative reports. The VA was paying nearly $300,000 a month to rent the clinic from a private landlord. Recently released correspondence indicates the VA will work to recover any improper payments if fraud is confirmed.

Woman’s ballot thought to be missing was actually counted; state cites clerical error

Patrick Gannon, spokesperson for the state agency, said it was a clerical error that led to the belief Herring’s vote was not counted.

  Restrooms still an issue at Port City Marina two years later

Just a few hundred yards from where the Pier 33 apartment complex is preparing to break ground, a long-running dispute between the City of Wilmington and a waterfront developer continues.

  Former high school teacher facing new charges for sex crimes

A former New Hanover County high school science teacher is facing new charges in an ongoing criminal investigation into inappropriate relationships he had with his students and other minors. Mike Kelly was recently charged for sex crimes that happened a decade ago against a newly discovered victim.

McCready campaign, NCSBE call for Harris petition to be dismissed

Wake County Superior Court has not set a date to hear a petition from Republican Mark Harris — but the stage is set for one.

  Business disputes complaints, plans to sue for defamation

Topping wrote an elaborate post on his own website, attempting to discredit his accusers, and telling readers that “WECT Can Not Be Trusted,” after our report detailing the growing number of customer complaints about his company, DTopp.

NC attorney general investigating Wilmington business

The North Carolina Attorney General’s Office is investigating a downtown Wilmington business accused of taking customers’ money and not providing promised services. WECT has received complaint after complaint about this business.

Watching Your Wallet: How much could you earn if you invested your coffee money?

Financial experts from NerdWallet say saving and investing as little as $20 a week can amount to $170,000 in retirement money.

Hidden in plain sight: A decade of local politics culminates in national election fraud investigation

In a small office space located just a few blocks off US Highway 701, two women held down operations as the phones rang nearly non-stop for a week.

  ‘KKK’ writing, racial epithets draw interest in 5-year-old girl’s killing

Race could have been a factor in the sexual assault and murder of a 5-year-old girl in a rural Pender County community, according to court documents unsealed this week.

After years of litigation, couple’s lawsuit over their property’s flooding nearing end

A legal battle over whether the city of Boiling Spring Lakes should have to compensate a couple whose property flooded because of a city project is nearing an end, more than four and half years after the couple sued the Brunswick County community.