South Buncombe resident David Bradley, 61, has dealt with health problems, watched his home-based insulation business stall amid a down economy, and seen his family’s well water contaminated. He’s also shared his neighbors’ frustration over the slow pace of government action to clean up the contamination linked to the nearby former CTS of Asheville plant (which closed in 1986). And now, in response to a request by the Elkhart, Ind.-based electronic-components manufacturer, Bradley has the Environmental Protection Agency demanding information about his business and threatening stiff fines.
“The United States Environmental Protection Agency is currently investigating the release or threatened release of hazardous substances, pollutants or contaminants, or hazardous wastes on or about the above-referenced Sites,” a June 25 letter to Bradley and his company states. “Compliance with the Information Request is mandatory. Failure to respond fully and truthfully to the Information Request within thirty (30) days of receipt of this letter, or to adequately justify such failure to respond, can result in an enforcement action by EPA.”
Among other things, the letter asks Bradley, “Did you ever use, purchase, generate, store, treat, dispose of, or otherwise handle any hazardous substances at 14 Chapel Hill Church Road?” and “Describe the chemical processes that have been used at your property at 14 Chapel Hill Church Road, during the period of time when you owned, leased, and/or operated the facility. Specify which processes involved the use of trichloroethylene (TCE), perchloroethylene (PCE), toluene, or any other solvent or petroleum product.”
Shifting the blame?
Ironically, Bradley is one of the very people directly affected by the ongoing contamination (see “Fail-safe?” July 11, 2007, Xpress). His home was placed on city water last August after TCE, a suspected carcinogen, was found in his family’s well at a concentration of 840 parts per billion — more than 168 times the maximum the law allows in drinking water. (See “The Green Scene,” Sept. 9, 2009, Xpress.)
Bradley says he’s baffled and angry at the request, noting that he doesn’t manufacture the insulation he installs, and he stores it in Fletcher, far away from the site the EPA is asking about.
“I don’t keep insulation here — I just work out of my house,” Bradley explains. “I don’t make the insulation, I get it from distributors: I just install it. I don’t know what they’re trying to say. I just figure since they found so much of that stuff in my water, they’re trying to blame me for screwing the water up.”
Bradley also notes that while he can’t prove a connection, a rash on his grandson’s arms and legs disappeared after his household stopped using the contaminated well water.
“The people who come out here from the EPA are nice,” he reports. “There’s been a couple that said they know exactly where it’s coming from, up there [at CTS], but I don’t know they’d come out and say that.
“They [the EPA] say they’ll fine me $37,500 a day if I don’t answer the request,” he adds with a chuckle. “They’ll have a hell of a time getting it, ’cause I don’t have any money; there’s no construction right now.”
“It is well documented…”
Late last September, however, lawyers for CTS sent four members of Congress (Sen. Richard Burr and Reps. Joe Donnelly, Heath Shuler and Mark Souder) a letter claiming that there could be other sources of contamination besides the massive former electroplating plant, which sits less than half a mile from Bradley’s property. Among others, CTS pointed the finger at the former Gerber plant on Hendersonville Road, a local dry cleaner, a meth lab, the former Volvo Construction equipment plant — and Bradley’s little home-based business, Carolina Insulation.
“It is well documented … that various solvents and adhesives are used in the process of installing insulation and HVAC [heating, ventilation and air-conditioning] components,” CTS’ letter states.
Local residents and activists have sharply criticized the federal agency’s handling of the testing and cleanup at the site, where an EPA contractor first noted the contamination in 1991. And a May 19 report from the EPA’S Office of Inspector General blasted the agency’s own regional office in Atlanta, which, along with state agencies, oversees the operation. The report charged that limited oversight, poor record-keeping and inadequate communications have hampered the cleanup and failed to keep the public informed about the hazards.
Bradley, meanwhile, says he’s consulting attorneys and plans to fight the request.
“The government can do you any way [they] want to unless you got an attorney,” he says. “CTS screwed it up: There’s nothing else around here that could’ve caused it. They thought they’d scare me, sending that letter. But piss on them: I’m not scared of them. I’m 61 years old, I’ve had a heart attack, I’ve had a knee replaced, and I ain’t going to take no s**t off of them!”
David Forbes can be reached at 251-1333, ext. 137, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.