In a presentation to the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners yesterday, county staff confirmed that small amounts of TCE, an industrial chemical that can cause cancer, liver and brain damage, had been found in a third well near the site of the former CTS plant on Mills Gap Road. The well, in the Oaks subdivision, serves seven families and is a little over half a mile away from the plant.
While the amounts are, staff noted, below those considered possibly harmful by both the EPA and the state’s Department Environment and Natural Resources, it prompted the board to unanimously approve putting public water to the subdivision and instructing the county Health Board to develop criteria for preventing future well-drilling in the area until the situation is resolved.
“My guess, if there’s even a trace of it, I can’t imagine people feel comfortable putting their kids in that bathwater or drinking that water that’s got even a trace of it,” commissioner David Young said. “I really think we have to move fast to come up with something on these issues and get these folks on safe drinking water. You just can’t assure people enough once you’ve found it. No one’s ever going to feel comfortable when it’s there — because how long before a trace becomes more than a trace? We’ve got to get these folks public water.”
Assistant County Manager Mandy Stone said that the county is also conducting a study to determine if cancer rates among residents of the area are higher than normal.
At previous meetings of the board, area residents harshly criticized the commissioners, asserting they had not acted quickly enough after contamination in the area was discovered.
Chairman Nathan Ramsey also said that people in the area had to be notified “and we need to develp criteria for getting anyone in that area public water in the future.”
Meanwhile, Vice Chair David Gantt, who’s vying with Ramsey for the chair’s spot in the upcoming election, added that “we need some sort of notification process, so if people buy a house in that area, they know what they’re getting into — because a lot of people have told us they didn’t,” and said the board should work with area realtors to enact such a step.
— David Forbes, staff writer