Progress has been made in cleaning up the contaminated former CTS of Asheville site, Buncombe County Environmental Health Director Marc Fowler reports. Communication with state and federal agencies has improved, and city water has been provided to residents of The Oaks subdivision who were relying on possibly contaminated wells.
On Oct. 9, county officials and staff met with staff from the offices of Rep. Heath Shuler and Sens. Elizabeth Dole and Richard Burr, as well as representatives of the Environmental Protection Agency and the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources.
“Out of that came an agreement to share information and work hand in hand with Buncombe County,” Fowler explains. “We hope to have the outline for a cleanup plan by Dec. 1 and a plan finalized by Dec. 15.”
Trichloroethylene, an industrial solvent and suspected carcinogen, has been found on the site and in ground water in the surrounding area. County government has criticized both the EPA and DENR for not sharing enough information or acting quickly to address the situation, and in early October, Sen. Dole wrote a harsh letter to EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson, calling the agency’s conduct “unacceptable.”
Part of the problem, says Fowler, is that the various agencies have been using different criteria—DENR has been looking for contamination in a narrower area than the county, for example—but a new, more comprehensive health assessment is on the way.
“It’s been all over the place, but hopefully we’re on the same page now,” notes Fowler, adding, “We need to protect people whose wells may be in danger. With the bedrock in this area, the contamination could hit a vein and spread.”
To that end, the county has worked with the Metropolitan Sewerage District and the city of Asheville to switch residents of The Oaks subdivision to city water.
The EPA will also begin using an improved vapor-extraction technology at the site in December. To date, they’ve removed 3,600 lbs. of TCE.
“They say the technology is proven, that it works,” notes Fowler. “That’s good—there’s still a lot of cleanup to do.”
To view documents related to contamination at the CTS site, visit www.mountainx.com/xpressfiles.