CTS of Asheville contamination

In 1999, neighbors living adjacent to former electroplating facility called CTS of Asheville discovered an oily substance in their drinking water. When the Environmental Protection Agency responded, they found levels of trichloroethylene, a toxic substance and suspected carcinogen, at 21,000 parts per billion: more than 4,000 times the safe standard for potable water.

Those neighbors have since switched to the city water supply, but the source — groundwater contamination that persists beneath the CTS site — has not been adequately addressed, according to some critics. A system designed to remove hazardous vapors from the soil was installed at the site in 2006, but contamination levels in the neighboring spring have measured higher in recent testing than previously detected.

“Despite being entered into the state’s superfund program in the early ‘90s, very little cleanup has been accomplished,” wrote Hartwell Carson, RiverLink’s French Broad Riverkeeper, in a Sept. 6 letter to Rep. Heath Shuler.

What follows is just a few of the hundreds of pages of documentation regarding the CTS of Asheville site.

• This page from a 1991 Environmental Protection Agency study summarizes the agency’s findings at the CTS of Asheville plant on Mills Gap Road in south Asheville. The final sentence, recommending “no further remedial action,” may seem perplexing, given the hazardous chemicals listed. According to the EPA, this evaluation was done to determine whether the site should be placed on the National Priorities List—a roster of the worst hazardous-waste sites in the nation. Based on sampling results, CTS of Asheville did not make the cut.

Click here to download a PDF of the document.

• This October 2007 letter from attorney William Clarke to the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners outlines the clean-up action at the former CTS site. Clarke represents Mills Gap Road Associates, which bought the property from CTS Corporation in 1987.

Click here to download a PDF of the document.

•This November 2007 letter from the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ Division of Waste Management to the chairman of the board of the CTS Corporation explains that hazardous substances from the site were released into the environment. The letter demands a full site assessment and outlines what’s required. The state says in the letter that “the Division considers the Site to be a high priority for assessment.”

Click here to download a PDF of the document.

• This December 2007 letter from attorney William Clarke to attorney Gary Davis discusses details of Mills Gap Road Associates acquiring the former CTS property.

Click here to download a PDF of the document.

• This is attorney Gary Davis’ letter in response to attorney William Clarke’s letter regarding the sale of the former CTS property to The Biltmore Group.

Click here to download a PDF of the document.

• This is an August 1998 “notice of inactive hazardous substance or waste disposal site” from the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources to John Powell of law firm Powell & Deutsch.

Click here to download a PDF of the document.

• This is an August 1998 letter from the law firm Powell & Deutsch to the Superfund Section of the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources regarding a plat of the property.

Click here to download a PDF of the document.

• This is a December 1997 letter from the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources to Mills Gap Road Associates, the owner of the former CTS plant property, notifying Mills Gap Road Associates that the state deems the property an inactive hazardous substance or waste disposal site.

Click here to download a PDF of the document.

• This May 1998 letter from the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources is a notification to Mills Gap Road Associates that the owner of the former CTS plant property had not yet responded to an order from the state requiring the group to submit and record a notice of inactive hazardous substance or waste disposal site.

Click here to download a PDF of the document.

• This April 1995 letter from the N.C. Department of Environment and Natural Resources is a response to questions from Stan Greenburg, a member of the Mills Gap Road Associates and the owner of the former CTS plant site property. The letter lists concerns about concentrations of chemicals found in soil and surface water samples. “Due to these concerns, the site must remain on the Inactive Hazardous Sites Inventory until further investigation is conducted to determine the degree and extent of contamination at the site,” the letter states.

Click here to download a PDF of the document.

• This document contains background and history on the former CTS plant site. Click here to download a PDF of the document.

This document is a map of the former CTS plant site. Click here to download a PDF of the document.

• This fact sheet and frequently asked questions handout were distributed to residents living nearby the former CTS of Asheville site at an informational meeting held July 17, 2008, by the state Division of Waste Management. The Division is responsible for overseeing the remediation at CTS, a hazardous-waste site that is the source of ground-water contamination.

Click here to download a PDF of the FAQ. Click here to download a PDF of the fact sheet.

• This resolution, drafted by the county’s CTS citizen’s monitoring board in May 2008 for the county commissioners to sign, calls on the EPA and DENR not to let CTS go into “voluntary remediation,” a process that would likely leave taxpayers bearing most of the cost of cleaning up the contaminated former CTS of Asheville site. Some activists and members of the CTS monitoring board have asserted the county has ignored the resolution and not taken significant action to pressure the federal and state governments to speed up the clean up.

Click here to read the resolution. There were several documents provided as supporting documents to the resolution, including the following: Click here to read a letter summarizing the CTS situation; click here to read a letter from the Community Advisory Group to the state; click here to read a letter from the state to the federal Environmental Protection Agency; and click here to read state statutes regarding hazardous waste sites.

• In this April 9, 2009 draft agreement for a voluntary re-mediation deal on the contaminated CTS of Asheville site, the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources lays out the terms that the site’s owners will have to abide by: they must present a plan for cleanup and follow it. However, some local activists have criticized the plan, asserting that it will leave local taxpayers footing the bill, and delay the much-needed cleanup. Click here to download a PDF of the document.

• This map, by local activists protesting local, state and federal officials’ handling of the cleanup of the contaminated CTS of Asheville site, shows over 70 cases of cancer within a mile and a half of the abandoned factory. They assert that these cases are caused by the presence of TCE, a suspected carcinogen, in the groundwater for many years. An official 2008 analysis by the North Carolina Central Cancer Registry covering a 1-mile radius around the site was found no increased rate of cancer, but was admittedly “very limited.” Click here to download a PDF of the map.

• In May 2009, a group of Asheville residents collected about 3,100 signatures on a petition demanding “full, proper and time-critical cleanup” of the CTS site in south Asheville. The 5-pound package was sent to North Carolina Gov. Beverly Purdue and the state’s Division of Waste Management.

Click here to see the letter accompanying the petition from the Community Action Group. Click here to see the Asheville City Council resolution supporting the petition. Click here to see the Buncombe County commissioners’ resolution supporting the petition.

Click here to the letter supporting full clean-up of the CTS site from the Limestone Council. Click here to see UNCA’s Student Senate letter in support.

U.S. Sen. Richard Burr of North Carolina sent a letter requesting an investigation into the EPA’s handling of the site over the past 20 years. Click here to see the letter.

• The North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Inactive Hazardous Site division, released this August 2009 update on the CTS site off Mills Gap Road. DENR indicates the following: a Phase I report has found high levels of TCE in at least one monitoring well, state officials have delayed a decision on a clean-up agreement with CTS until the Environmental Protection Agency decides whether to list the site on the National Priorities List, and a link to state/federal responses to questions posed by residents at a Buncombe County Commissioners meeting earlier this year. Click here to download a PDF of the document.

The 516-page Phase I report can be found at http://www.wastenotnc.org/CTSMillsGapRoad/.

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Click here to download a PDF of the document

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