A notebook of recovered documents may show how federal officials mishandled the contaminated CTS site on Mills Gap Road in 1999, say a group of residents who held a press conference at the federal building in downtown Asheville today, May 23. Residents also voiced concerns about a plan that would provide in-house water filters to those residents affected by the contamination.
Shortly after the conference, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency officials countered that they have nothing to hide, have replaced the missing documents and are moving forward with the process that ensues once a property is declared a Superfund site.
Tate MacQueen, the group spokesperson, accused EPA officials of improperly removing the documents which, he contends, provide evidence of how officials “faked an emergency spill in 1999” at the Mills Gap site after an administrative mix-up had allowed an up-scale housing development to be built on part of the nearly 60-acre property. In a written statement, MacQueen calls the site “an active toxic disaster.”
In March, the former CTS of Asheville property on Mills Gap Road was officially named a Superfund site and placed on the National Priorities List. About that time, the EPA and CTS reached an agreement that calls for putting water filters in the homes of residents affected by ground- and surface water contaminated by the host of chemicals used, stored and possibly disposed of on the site. One of those toxins is trichloroethylene, a recognized carcinogen. TCE and other toxins have been found in nearby drinking-water supplies, in some cases at levels thousands of times above what’s considered safe.
In April, Region 4 Superfund Director Franklin Hill wrote to MacQueen and reported that his staff had noted the missing documents a month earlier and was replacing them. Hill also acknowledged that the U.S. Office of Inspector General “has opened a case to look into … allegations of fraud and criminal acts.” Noting cooperation in that investigation, Hill mentioned the 6,000 pounds of volatile compounds that have been removed to date from soil on the site and promised, “We intend to continue to follow the Superfund process which will lead us to a final remedy that is fully protective of human health and the environment and subject to community input.”
Shortly after the May 23 press conference led by MacQueen, Xpress received this clarification from Samantha Urquhart-Foster, Remedial Project Manager and Region 4 Five-Year Review Coordinator: “EPA has thousands of documents regarding the CTS of Asheville, Inc. site in our Records Center. Anyone is welcome to submit a request to EPA if they would like to receive a copy of a particular document. We are not trying to hide anything.”
In his statement, MacQueen insists that the recovered documents and other records ““substantiate allegations that EPA Region 4 officials have engaged in criminal malfeasance, fraud, criminal negligence and violations of the 4th Amendment and 14th Amendment rights of area victims of CTS Corpʼs contamination to federal authorities and state and federal legislators.”
Meanwhile, residents who live within a mile of the site have been given until May 31 to sign up for the water-filter systems, which will be paid for and monitored by CTS or CTS contractors. As outlined in a May 17 letter from Urquhart-Foster, homeowners have “the right not to have the system installed,” but, she explains, “This is an interim measure to protect your drinking water while” further investigation is under way. Urquhart-Foster also says that the EPA will be developing a list of long-term solutions: “Our experience at other sites suggest that connection to the municipal supply, installation of filter systems, and/or continued monitoring are all potential options.” (For a fact sheet provided by the EPA, scroll below the residents’ press release.)
But MacQueen and fellow resident Lori Murphy question the plan, which, they argue, gives CTS contractors access to private property, reduces testing for contaminants and may be insufficient protection. Murphy cautioned that there is no safe level for the contaminants linked to the site and that homeowners should continue to press for municipal water.
For more information, links to documents and background, visit http://avl.mx/au to view key documents in the CTS case. For the latest Xpress coverage of the issue, go to www.mountainx.com/cts. To view a timeline of the CTS case, click here.
Mountain Xpress first covered this story in 2007, when residents brought to light the extent of the contamination (see “Fail Safe?” July 11, 2007).
Full press release
Local residents will turn over records that substantiate allegations that EPA Region 4 officials have engaged in criminal malfeasance, fraud, criminal negligence and violations of the 4th Amendment and 14th Amendment rights of area victims of CTS Corpʼs contamination to federal authorities and state and federal legislators.
Missing Administrative Record documents were removed from the file system at Pack Library by an EPA Emergency Coordinator. EPA Region 4 Superfund Branch Chief Franklin Hill admitted on April 18, 2012, that documents required by CERCLA law to be in the local library are missing. Hill acknowledged that EPA Region 4 is under investigation for alleged criminal activities and fraud. Currently, four EPA officials are under state subpoena and have refused to participate in hearings at the capital. The missing documents detail that on August 21,1999, EPA Region 4 reported a Hazardous Incident. The fake incident was submitted to the U.S. Coast Guard National Response Center on August 23, 1999.
The report was the basis for creating a “new” Superfund, Mills Gap Road Groundwater Contamination to hide the fact that the preexisting CTS of Asheville Inc Superfund was improperly released by EPA Region 4 Brownfield Director and had become an upscale subdivision on an active toxic disaster. EPA Region 4 officials also sought to conceal that a previous investigation of the CTS of Asheville Superfund in 1990 revealed widespread toxic contamination in the future subdivision and on an adjacent private residence. EPA Region 4 was aware in 1990 that pipes were used to funnel waste into the private property and into a containment pond located in the present day Southside Village Subdivision. EPA officials trespassed onto a private residence and sampled near waste outfall pipe and at the drinking water springs on June 26, 1990. Owners were never informed of the sampling or the dangerous levels of contamination found. The community will present its findings to the Buncombe County Commissioners at the Commissioner meeting.
The following is a brief synopsis and timeline:
In 1995, EPA Brownfield Director released CTS of Asheville Inc Superfund from the CERCLIS Inventory of Hazardous Sites. This effectively ended the CTS Superfund site.
However, on July 8, 1999, NC Division of Water Quality (DWQ) was informed of contamination found in the Rice family springs. On July 9th, the Rice drinking water springs were sampled. Trichloroethylene was detected at 7,000 times the state limit for TCE. DWQ reported to the NC Dept. of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), which responded by sampling 9 wells within .5 miles of CTS plant.
A contaminated well was discovered 1,200 feet downgradient from CTS plant; the levels were known on August 9, 1999. On August 16, 1999, DENR requested an Emergency Response Investigation from EPA Region and DENR sent a three page letter with a 43 page attachment. CTS of Asheville Inc was referenced 7 times in second paragraph alone. The 43 page attachment is part of the missing documents. In the first five pages there were 4 maps showing CTS and its proximity to the rediscovered contamination. All sampling reports by DWQ and DENR connected CTS of Asheville to groundwater and surface water contamination. EPA Region 4 officials were sent the attachments.
When EPA Region 4 realized that a preexisting site, grossly mismanaged and released was now a problem considering the subdivision was being built on a known toxic waste site, EPA Region 4 engaged in what residents allege as brazen fraud and misappropriation of CERCLA funds to prevent EPA 4 officials from being exposed for their role in the alleged criminal mismanagement. The official most responsible for EPA Region 4 actions stated that he did not know that CTS was next door to the Rice property. EPA Region 4ʼs missing Administrative Record documents debunk those claims with EPAʼs own documents. A copy of his statement explaining how the Mills Gap Road Groundwater Contamination site was created from a water procurement form, which is on the record, will also be provided.
On April 21, 1999, EPA 4 created an incident EPA claimed to have happened at noon with an unknown sheen, unknown source and unknown Suspected Responsible Paper. It was paper incident; it had already occurred and had already been sampled, analyzed and reported by DWQ and DENR. The sheen was known, the Suspected Responsible Party was known and the source was linked to CTS of Asheville. EPA Region 4 sent the report into the USCG National Response Center at 10:40 am on August 23, 1999.
This allowed EPA Region to create a new and fraudulent Superfund, Mills Gap Road Groundwater Contamination Site, that was placed on the Rice property and the Rices, who were the victims, were never informed. EPA Region 4 officials are alleged to have abused the National Response Center in order to fraudulently generate CERCLA funding needed to remove four families from their water supply and to place them on city water. To hide their mistakes, to safeguard their jobs and the protect the agencyʼs images, the money was fraudulently allocated.
The community believes this is a clear-case of fraud. EPA Region 4 has been compromised ever since and has failed to act on the TIME CRITICAL SITUATION and THE IMMINENT THREAT the CTS site posed and continues to pose to this day.
In 2004, EPA negotiated an Administrative Order on Consent between the federal government and CTS on a site placed on the Rice property, which violated the Rices 14th Amendment rights to Equal Protection Under The Law. The actions of EPA Region 4 have resulted in multi-millions of dollars in fraud. The health and safety of area residents and the environment have been harmed. There are 50 non-Hodgkin Lymphomas within one mile of the CTS plant. There are scores of other cancers and tumors. The Rice family and Robinson family have been especially hard hit.
The community is seeking relief from federal and state legislators, and support from Buncombe County officials for city water lines to impacted area, a proper clean up of the primary source of contamination and investigations with charges where applicable for state and federal agents.
CTS of Asheville, Inc. Superfund Site – Community Update Fact Sheet May 23, 2012
EPA recently received the final laboratory results from the March private well sampling event. There were no detections of contaminants in drinking water above risk‐based health values.
Last week EPA mailed letters and access authorization forms, to owners of homes that rely on well or spring water that are located within a one‐mile radius of the site. We are requesting that those homeowners complete the form and return it to EPA in the postage paid business reply envelopes that were included with the letters, by May 31, 2012. In preparing to send those letters, we realized that some homes on our well water monitoring network are beyond the one‐mile radius. Those homes were not included in the filtration system offer, but if future sampling indicates a need to extend the offer, those homeowners will be notified.
In early June, EPA will contact the homeowners that returned the access authorization forms to arrange for appointments for representatives of EPA, CTS Corporation’s contractor and the filtration company to visit their home to collect water samples and assess their current water system and individual home needs in order to design the most appropriate filtration system for each home. Filtration system installation is expected to begin mid‐June. EPA will oversee the work that is performed by CTS Corporation’s contractors.
RECENT QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS ABOUT FILTRATION SYSTEM OFFER:
The filter system that was shown in the picture of the March 2012 Fact Sheet does not look adequate. Is that the system that will be used?
In March we emailed a Fact Sheet that included information about the filtration system offer as well as Frequently Asked Questions that I had received. The photograph in the Fact Sheet, which is also in CTS Corporation’s contractor’s Work Plan, is not the actual system that will be used. The photo is of a table top display model and was meant to illustrate the basic set up. The actual filtration system will be much larger. The carbon canister will be approximately 3 feet tall and a foot in diameter. It will be sufficiently sized to remove contamination that may enter your well water. The system will include a sediment filter and a carbon filter, at a minimum.
How often will filter maintenance occur? Will I have to backwash the system?
Each home has different needs depending on well water quality and amount of water usage. It is anticipated that the filter system maintenance will occur every 6 months. However the frequency may vary depending on the needs of the home. The system does not require backwashing. If you experience a problem related to the filtration system between maintenance intervals, please let us know and we’ll arrange for the filtration contractor to visit your home to evaluate the problem.
Will there be any signed agreement/guarantee given to the homeowner as to the length of time the filters will be maintained, inspected, monitored? And if so, who will sign these documents……EPA, NC DENR, CTS?
CTS Corporation offered (in writing) to maintain, inspect, monitor, sample, etc. the filtration units until the Remedial Investigation and Feasibility Study is completed. The RI/FS process typically takes approximately two years to complete. This written offer is included in Section 3.0 of the Interim Response Measure Work Plan to Supplement the Removal Action Plan of February 4, 2005 for the CTS of Asheville, Inc. Superfund Site. EPA approved the Work Plan on May 22, 2012. A copy of the Work Plan can be provided to you if requested.
Will we know the process of picking the RIGHT filter for our property? Will we know the type, name of the filter picked, how it works, etc. before installation? And can it be refused and another recommendation made if not correct for our needs?
In June, after access agreements are received, EPA will contact the homeowner to arrange for a home visit. Representatives of EPA, CTS Corporation’s contractor and the filtration company will visit each home to test the water and collect measurements to design the system for each home. The homeowner or representative will need to be present during that visit to answer any questions the filtration company may have in order to best design the system for that home. The licensed contractor will use industry judgment and consider the preferences of the homeowner in arriving at the final system design. Information about the filter models and how the system works can be provided to the homeowner. If the homeowner changes their mind about accepting the filtration offer, we can cancel the installation.
Will there be a signed agreement given to the homeowner, with EPA and NCDENR agencies, to physically monitor each time CTS inspects, maintains and draws water from our well?
EPA plans to have a representative of EPA or NCDENR physically present during all sampling activities, however, no signed agreement will be given to the homeowner. A representative of EPA or NCDENR will be present during most of the inspections and maintenance activities. If you have a strong desire for EPA or NCDENR presence for any activities conducted on your property, please let us know and we’ll make arrangements to have someone present.
Who will be sending us the results of well testing?
EPA will review the analytical data and then send the results to the homeowners.
Will we know the name and address of the lab testing the well?
CTS Corporation’s contractor intends to use Pace Analytical Services, Inc. (Pace) to analyze the well water samples. Pace has laboratories located in Charlotte, Asheville, and Eden, NC.
Please explain a statement on Page 48 of the AOC signed 1/26/12. As I understand it, it states that once a set number of filters are installed, both the EPA and CTS as well as NCDENR are no longer committed to or responsible for monitoring said filters for contaminants or sampling. Is this so? And does this also mean that the EPA and CTS as well as NCDENR are no longer responsible for the said filters maintenance? And how many installed filters will be necessary for this to happen?
Page 48 of the AOC includes the task for drinking water well monitoring. It states that the frequency of well water sampling may be decreased to less often than quarterly once the filter systems are offered. CTS Corporation is responsible for inspecting, maintaining and monitoring all of the filtration systems that they install for the duration of the Remedial Investigation and Feasibility Study. They are also responsible for sampling and analyzing well water. EPA and NCDENR will oversee the actions performed by CTS Corporation’s contractor.
Will power be needed for the filtration system?
The filter system itself will not require electrical power to operate. However, an ultraviolet lamp may be installed after the filter media in order to kill any bacteria that may be in the water. This small, approximate 25 watt lamp will use minimal electricity. Depending on the filter system installation location, some may require a heat source to prevent water from freezing in the system during the winter. If the system is installed in a heated basement or already heated well pump house, additional heat would not be required. If it is installed outside, the contractor will provide a heating system which would be powered by electricity.
I’m not sure if I want to accept the filter system. What are my options?
EPA strongly encourages each homeowner that receives the offer to accept the filtration system. If the homeowner declines the offer, but still wishes to have their water tested, he/she needs to contact Samantha or Angela so we can provide them with a different access agreement for CTS Corporation’s contractor to conduct the sampling activities on their property.
Who do I contact for more information?
Angela Miller Community Involvement Coordinator
toll free: 877‐718‐3752 (extension 28561)
Samantha Urquhart‐Foster Remedial Project Manager