In 1999, neighbors living adjacent to former electroplating facility called CTS of Asheville discovered an oily substance in their drinking water. When the Environmental Protection Agency responded, they found levels of trichloroethylene, a toxic substance and suspected carcinogen, at 21,000 parts per billion: more than 4,000 times the safe standard for potable water.
Those neighbors have since switched to the city water supply, but the source — groundwater contamination that persists beneath the CTS site — has not been adequately addressed, according to some critics. A system designed to remove hazardous vapors from the soil was installed at the site in 2006, but contamination levels in the neighboring spring have measured higher in recent testing than previously detected.
“Despite being entered into the state’s superfund program in the early ‘90s, very little cleanup has been accomplished,” wrote Hartwell Carson, RiverLink’s French Broad Riverkeeper, in a Sept. 6 letter to Rep. Heath Shuler. “Minimal efforts are currently underway to begin addressing the problem, but after the plant closed 21 years ago and because of a significant public health risk, immediate efforts need to be put in place to understand where the chemical has spread and how much of the public is in danger.
“A visit to the site by Congressman Shuler would go a long way towards ratcheting up the pressure for a swift cleanup,” Carson’s letter hinted.
Shuler’s representative, District Director Bruce Peterson, met with Carson yesterday in response, and said he would follow up with the EPA. “He seemed to agree that it was a problem,” Carson commented. Peterson was not available for comment.
For more background on CTS of Asheville, see the recent Xpress article “Fail-Safe?”
— Rebecca Bowe, contributing editor