The current plan for addressing ground-water contamination at the former CTS of Asheville plant would cap the amount the company could be required to spend on the cleanup at $3 million—even if the ultimate cost were much higher. So says the CTS Citizens Monitoring Council, a group of seven residents living near the hazardous-waste site who were appointed by the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners to keep the board abreast of remediation efforts.
On May 30, Monitoring Council members drafted a resolution and submitted it to the commissioners, hoping the board would endorse it and send it along to Raleigh. Essentially, the resolution asks that the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources halt the “voluntary remediation” cleanup process that’s now under way, because of the limited corporate responsibility implied in such a program.
Calling the current approach “privileged status and protection” for CTS Corp., the document also references another CTS plant, the Printex facility in Mountain View, Calif., where contamination from the same industrial solvent was detected and completely removed within five years—at the company’s expense—by order of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Unlike Printex, however, the CTS of Asheville site is not on the National Priority List, so the responsibility for working with the electronics manufacturer to address ground-water contamination lies with the state, not the EPA. The state has asked the Elkhart, Ind.-based CTS Corp. to draft a plan for assessing the scope of the pollution problem, but an actual cleanup is still a long way off. Cost estimates, likewise, have yet to be determined.
Three weeks after the Monitoring Council submitted the resolution, it still hadn’t been included on the agenda for a Board of Commissioners meeting. Assistant County Attorney Michael Frue told Xpress that this was because none of the commissioners had requested it. But according to an e-mail that Clerk to the Board Kathy Hughes sent to of the Monitoring Council members several days later, “Before the resolution could be officially considered as part of an agenda it had to be reviewed by legal.”
When Xpress asked Board of Commissioners Vice Chair David Gantt about it, he said the resolution makes sense in principle but might not be altogether on solid legal ground. “First of all, I think there are some questions as to whether this is all accurate,” said Gantt, an attorney by profession, as he looked it over. “We’ve got to make sure that everything in there is legal. … So that’s my understanding why this wasn’t just put on the docket.
“I like the concept, certainly,” he went on. “If it costs more than $3 million, CTS ought to have to pay more. I don’t have any problem with that. I think this is exactly what we asked the Monitoring Council to do: to bring the issues before us.” According to Gantt, the resolution is now under review by the county’s legal team.