David Bradley, 61, runs an insulation business out of his home on Chapel Hill Church Road, near the contaminated former CTS of Asheville site. Now, based on a request from CTS, the Environmental Protection Agency has demanded that Bradley give out information on his home as a possible source of contamination or face 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 reads. “Compliance with the Infornation Request is mandatory. Failure to respond fully and truthfully to the Infornation 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 questions, the letter asks Bradley, “Did you ever use, purchase, generate, store, treat, dispose of, or otherwise handle at 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.”
Bradley was placed on municipal water last August after 840 parts per billion of TCE — more than 168 times the legal maximum of the suspected carcinogen — were found in his family’s well. He tells Xpress he’s baffled and angry at the request. He doesn’t manufacture insulation and stores it in Fletcher, far away from the site the EPA is demanding information about.
“I don’t keep insulation here, I just work out of my house,” Bradley says. “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.”
He says 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 says. “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, before chuckling. “They’ll have a hell of a time getting it, ‘cause I don’t have any money, there’s no construction right now.”
However, in late September of last year, lawyers for CTS sent congressional staff a letter claiming that there could be other sources of contamination besides the massive electroplating plant, which is located less than a half-mile from Bradley’s property. The plant closed in 1986. CTS instead pointed the finger at, among other businesses, Gerber’s Henderson Road facility, a dry cleaner, a meth lab, the Volvo Construction plant — and Bradley’s home-based business.
“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 reads.
EPA’s handling of testing and cleanup at the site has been sharply criticized by local residents and activists. In May, a report from the EPA Inspector General blasted EPA’s Region 4, which, along with state agencies, oversees the operation asserting limited oversight, along with poor record-keeping and communication, harmed the effort and failed to communicate the hazards to the public.
Bradley’s consulting with some attorneys and plans to fight the request.
“The government can do you any way you want to unless you got an attorney,” Bradley 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 shit off of them.”
— David Forbes, senior reporter