Staff of Rep. Heath Shuler turned away reporters, photographers and citizens from a meeting this morning on the issue of groundwater contamination at the former CTS of Asheville site. The meeting’s location had been changed from Shuler’s Asheville office, and his staff would not reveal the new location or who was attending.
A letter from Shuler’s office announcing the meeting said that regional Environmental Protection Agency representatives, as well as officials from the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources, would be in attendance. Local officials were also invited, and Buncombe County Board of Commissioners Chair Nathan Ramsey‘s truck was in the parking lot.
“The goals of this meeting are to share information gathered by our respective offices on this topic, and to identify both the process by which the site will be cleaned up, as well as the timeline by which remediation efforts are expected to occur,” the letter reads.
Local officials, including Buncombe commissioners, have criticized what they see as a tardy and tight-lipped response by EPA officials to the contamination problem. In July, the county received news that the contamination “plume” of the pollutant TCE might be spreading. Sen. Elizabeth Dole‘s office announced earlier this week that she was also dissatisfied with the EPA’s response, terming it “unacceptable” in a recent letter to EPA Director Stephen Johnson.
When Xpress reporters entered Shuler’s office and asked where the meeting was being held, they were told it had been moved. Then Shuler spokesperson Randy Flack declared that media were not allowed in.
“This is a private intergovernmental meeting — no press,” he said.
Flack also turned away WWNC reporter Tank Spencer and local activist/commissioner candidate Don Yelton.
— David Forbes, staff writer