When Tate MacQueen drove past the former CTS of Asheville plant recently on his way home, a for-sale sign caught his eye. The 8.3-acre parcel on offer was originally part of the nearly 60-acre CTS property. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency designated other portions of the property, as well as contaminated areas in the neighborhood, as a Superfund site last year. MacQueen, who lives nearby, has been active in drawing attention to the continuing contamination caused by the company’s electroplating operations, which ended in 1987.
“The CTS [Superfund] site is located on a topographic high; the sale property is lower in elevation than the main site,” says MacQueen. Citing data that has consistently shown high levels of carcinogens such as trichloroethylene in the soil, water and air near the old plant, he explains, “I wanted to make sure everyone is aware.”
An EPA official, however, says tests haven't shown any danger at the sale parcel. "There is contamination in the surface water, but they're below levels that are a risk to trespassers or anything like that," reports Samantha Urquhart-Foster, the EPA's remedial project manager for the case.
Located on Southside Village Drive, the property is offered for $956,800 by NAI, a division of Beverly-Hanks & Associates. The listing touts the property as "perfect for office, retail or multifamily development."
"Future sampling is anticipated,” notes Urquhart-Foster. “If they do sell the property, we'd need to work with the new owner to coordinate sampling." The EPA, she explains, "can continue to do investigation and action wherever we find contamination from the CTS site. … We don't have any information that there's an immediate risk right now. We're definitely following up. It wasn't dropped from our radar screen."
MacQueen and other neighborhood residents have complained that the case was consistently mishandled by local, state and federal officials over many years; some have asserted that there were active attempts to cover up the scope of the pollution. Several residents whose wells were contaminated have been switched to municipal water service, and the EPA is in the early stages of developing remediation plans. Although the plant buildings were demolished in 2012, a full cleanup has yet to occur, stresses MacQueen. Some residents are circulating a petition calling for CTS to clean up the site; and a legal action concerning a notification issue in the case is pending before the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Mountain Xpress reporter Rebecca Bowe broke the story of the CTS contamination five years ago, with much help from citizen activists. To view a timeline of the case, go to http://www.timetoast.com/timelines/cts-contamination.
For more history, visit http://www.mountainx.com/xpressfiles/040908ctssite.
For the latest CTS-related articles, check http://www.mountainx.com/cts.
David Forbes can be reached at 251-1333, ext. 137, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.