In a relatively rare moment of bipartisan action today, Democratic Sen. Kay Hagan and Republican Sen. Richard Burr, along with Democratic Rep. Heath Shuler, sent a letter to the Environmental Protection Agency, urging it to hasten its efforts to clean up the contaminated former CTS of Asheville site. The letter calls on EPA’s Region IV Administrator, Gwendolyn Fleming, to work with the Asheville community on steps for immediate cleanup of hazardous waste evidently released over many years at the former electroplating facility on Mills Gap Road in Skyland.
Mills Gap resident Lee Ann Smith displays her message regarding the contaminated former CTS of Asheville site. Photo by Katie Damien.
A full copy of the letter is available here.
The EPA recently proposed adding the site to its National Priorities List (NPL), a move that would place it among the most contaminated sites in the nation. NPL sites qualify for cleanup paid for using the so-called Superfund, and the EPA has additional long-term authority to clean up the contaminated soil and water surrounding these sites. Representatives from Hagan, Burr and Shuler’s offices attended a Mills Gap community meeting organized by the EPA earlier this month to discuss the NPL proposal. The proposal will undergo a public comment period that concludes in the fall. In the meantime, Hagan, Burr and Shuler say they are urging the EPA to take the strongest possible immediate action to stop the contamination from spreading.
“Long-term remediation efforts are essential to permanently and substantially reduce the impacts of this contamination,” the NC delegation members wrote in the letter. “However, in light of the short-term potential for this contamination to continue to spread and further endanger the health and safety of our constituents, we ask that comprehensive removal actions at this site be implemented with the utmost urgency.”
The lawmakers asked the EPA to work with local residents in the community affected by the CTS contamination. The delegation also requested that the EPA provide municipal water services to residents with wells that are at risk of exposure to contaminants associated with the site. Municipal water hookups have been provided to some of the most affected neighbors, but not before they were exposed to years of chemical contamination in their drinking water.
The delegation seemed to acknowledge the long-term injury to the community in writing, “The alternative for these families is to purchase bottled water indefinitely for drinking and cooking, something that many of these residents have had to do at their own expense for a decade.”
The CTS contamination story has unfolded for many years (see Xpress’ files on the case here), most recently with allegations of an illegal dumping system for hazardous waste on CTS property, and a lawsuit filed by area residents in federal court. Agency staffers have come and gone over the years, and documentation errors have been a common complaint by affected neighbors. In their letter, the delegation asked the EPA for a site cleanup timeline.