Two things: Rep. Heath Shuler chairs the Small Business Subcommittee. And he’s interested in the contamination’s detrimental effects on human health, the environment and one industry hit hard by the decline in adjacent property values — the real-estate industry.
Shuler called a hearing on the matter, bringing a bit of Washington to Asheville by holding it at the Skyland Fire Department on Monday, Dec. 8. Several dozen residents attended the meeting, in which Shuler heard brief testimony from the N.C. Division of Waste Management, the EPA, a local realtor and a spokesman for a citizen’s committee, the CTS Community Monitoring Group.
Shuler’s primary goal appeared to be urging everyone to work together. “It’s important that everything’s laid out on the table,” he told Xpress after the hearing. Testimony reviewed past mistakes, such as an early failure to measure contamination appropriately, and it included anecdotal reports of high cancer rates among residents living near the site. Shuler also pressed officials about the cost of studies and clean-up measures.
Waste Division Director Dexter Matthews reported that total clean-up costs won’t be known until the state assessment is finished; however, he mentioned the possibility that others may bear at least partial responsibility (and thus should share in the costs). Those parties include the International Resistance Company, which preceded CTS at the site, and Mills Gap Road Associates, “an owner with knowledge of the contamination when the property was purchased,” Matthews said.
Shuler remarked, “I hope [prior site owners] CTS will do some things [to clean it up] before the state finishes its review.” He also called for state, national and local agencies to set clear, achievable timelines for comprehensive studies and clean-up steps on groundwater and health issues. He urged residents to work with them.
According to Shuler, ongoing information about the issue will be posted at www.house.gov/shuler.
— Margaret Williams, contributing editor
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