The former CTS plant and an adjacent Mills Gap Road property have moved one halting step closer to being named a Superfund site. On Sept. 1, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced that it will consider proposing that the contaminated properties be added to the National Priorities List of hazardous-waste sites.

A formal decision won’t likely come before March 2011 at the earliest. The EPA’s press release cautions, “Consideration to propose the site to the NPL does not guarantee that the site will be proposed or that the site will be listed on the final NPL.”

EPA officials also note that the decision is based on ground-water studies made during the past three years, which have shown elevated — and, in some cases, extremely high — levels of such chemicals as trichloroethylene, a suspected human carcinogen. Some tests — done by the EPA and the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources — date back to 1990; one resident’s water wasn’t tested until last year. TCE was once used to clean and/or degrease metal objects prior to electroplating. Ingesting TCE or inhaling the vapors can cause a variety of health issues, ranging from headaches to severe liver damage, according to the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry.

Some residents — particularly three families who live within one mile of the Mills Gap Road site — drank from private water sources for a decade or more. Most have reported numerous health problems.

The Elkhart, Ind.-based CTS Corp. operated the plant from 1959 to 1986, then sold most of the property to Mills Gap Road Associates the following year. In 1997, the limited-liability company sold about 45 acres to the Biltmore Group for development as Southside Village, a residential community. The remaining 9-acre parcel is vacant and fenced off.

The EPA has stepped up its sampling of private wells within a one-mile radius of the site. The latest evaluation, done in June, shows “no new trichloroethylene detections.” Those results are being mailed out to local residents, and a community meeting is scheduled for Monday, Sept. 20.

Last month, Xpress reported on another development in the case: In the Aug. 11 Green Scene column, we noted that in July, CTS filed a breach-of-contract suit against Mills Gap Road Associates, alleging that the local partnership has failed to honor a 2004 agreement to share any future cleanup costs and is seeking “damages … no less than $847,000.”
For more information on this and other CTS issues, visit the Xpress website at

— Margaret Williams can be reached at 251-1333, ext. 152, or


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About Margaret Williams
Editor Margaret Williams first wrote for Xpress in 1994. An Alabama native, she has lived in Western North Carolina since 1987 and completed her Masters of Liberal Arts & Sciences from UNC-Asheville in 2016. Follow me @mvwilliams

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One thought on “Superfund?

  1. Dave Ogren

    Your article first sentance says one step closer to being named a superfund site. This site has been a superfund site since August 1980. In fact a closer look will reveal that they have incorrectly have 5 superfund (CERCLA) identification numbers assigned to this problem. That is also wrong according to their own EPA instructions. As the contamination spreads the site grows, not needing more numbers. There again a sign of incompetence from the EPA.

    Thank you for your article.


    Dave Ogren…note I first called about this pollution in the spring of 1987

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