The CTS/Mills Gap Road property just moved one step closer to being named a Superfund site: Today, Sept. 1, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced that it’s “moving forward” with the process to add the former electroplating plant to its National Priorities List of hazardous-waste sites.
A formal decision may be made as soon as March 2011, according to the EPA’s press release, which also 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 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. Breathing TCE vapors or drinking it can cause a variety of serious health issues, from headaches to severe liver damage, according to the U.S. Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry.
Some residents 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 Elkhardt, Ind.-based company CTS operated an electroplating facility on Mills Gap Road from 1959 to 1986, then sold it to Mills Gap Road Associates. About ten years later, the original 57-acre site was subdivided; part of the property was sold to The Biltmore Group, which created residential development Southside Village on a large portion of that property. The remaining 9-acre parcel is vacant and fenced off.
The EPA has stepped up its sampling and monitoring of private wells within a 1-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.
In other recent news, CTS filed a breach-of-contract lawsuit against Mills Gap Road Associates.
— Margaret Williams, news editor