Contaminants Continue to Release from the CTS site

Clean air, clean water, cleanupAs you may have read and seen, the springs cap and collection systems are working and displaced families can now move back home. But this is not the end of the story. These families remain in harm’s way as long as contaminants continue to migrate from the CTS site.

Indeed, the entire community is at risk until the EPA uses their removal authority to compel a full and thorough remedy of the source material, trichloroethylene (TCE) and other carcinogens, buried under the former CTS building.

Technical methodologies exist that can and will make cleanup a reality, if only the EPA would use its multifaceted legal authority to oblige the polluter to clean up its toxic mess that continues to release into our beautiful mountain community.

Lee Ann Smith
Chair, POWER Action Group

“Show A Little Love” Campaign to Target CTS this Valentine’s Day

For years people living near the abandoned CTS superfund site in Arden have dealt with a toxic and carcinogenic soup of trichloroethylene (TCE) and other chemicals that oozes off-site, contaminating air, water and soil.

Just this summer nearby families were relocated because of dangerous TCE vapor. Children are particularly vulnerable.

Even though the company no longer operates in Asheville, CTS is a viable multi-million dollar corporation based in Elkhart, IN, nicknamed “The City with a Heart.”

This Valentine’s Day, area residents and friends will call on CTS officials to “have a heart” by immediately conducting a complete cleanup of poisons the corporation left behind decades ago.

POWER Action Group will deliver signed Valentine’s cards, video post cards, and a petition with over 1,200 signatures to CTS officials asking them to do the right thing and show Asheville a little love.

We invite you to join us. Add your name to our online petition. You can also make a Valentine’s Day card that we’ll send to CTS, or go a little more high-tech and make a video post card! For more info or to get instructions on how to make the video postcard, please visit our website or email

POWER’s progress

Since its inception, POWER has made significant progress including:

  • Pushing for continued attention to the NAPL clean-up and fighting for more air sampling at adjacent properties. At POWER’s urging, the EPA developed a work plan to remove buried barrels at the site.
  • Working closely with county and city leaders to extend water lines and ensure that citizens have accurate information.
  • Hiring a community technical advisor, resulting in more effective community input into the Superfund process and decision making.
  • Helping to identify opportunities for early remediation of some of the contaminants, resulting in EPA requesting work plans and technical evaluation to remediate the contaminants.
  • Encouraging Buncombe County Commissioners to seek cost recovery from CTS for water line construction and building demolition.
  • Hosting a public meeting on the site clean-up in July 2014 attended by EPA, community members and numerous public officials and their representatives.
  • We also encourage you to get involved!

Where We Are in the Cleanup Process

Pollution Problems at the CTS of Asheville Site

The biggest contaminant of concern at the CTS site is trichloroethylene (TCE); it can affect the central nervous system, causing dizziness, headaches and confusion. Long-term exposure can damage the liver, kidneys, immune and endocrine systems.

Extremely high levels of TCE have been found in soil, ground water and surface water as far as two-thirds of a mile away from CTS, causing EPA to designate it as a Superfund Site. EPA’s maximum safe level of TCE is 5 parts per billion (ppb). Nearby groundwater contains up to 42,000 ppb.

Last summer, EPA evacuated residents who live near the site due to the unsafe levels of TCE in indoor- and outdoor-air in the area. Air pollution is released by toxic ground water that discharges to the springs just downhill and southeast of the CTS site.

What’s Being Done

As part of EPA’s Superfund program requirements, CTS Corporation and EPA will perform a site-wide, comprehensive Remedial Investigation and Feasibility Study to determine the “nature and extent of contamination” and evaluate alternative cleanup methods to find the best clean up solutions.

In response to the vapor contamination, CTS placed a cover over contaminated springs southeast of the site, and in October 2014 activated a system to capture and treat the TCE vapors emanating from the springs and ground water. Residents were told that vapors were at safe levels and they could return to their homes on the evening of November 17, 2014.

EPA also directed CTS to perform a Focused Feasibility Study to evaluate ways to collect and/or destroy the contamination that is present in the shallow soil near the former plant building (referred to as the Source Area). CTS contractors found a lot of petroleum and TCE in the soil there; in some cases the hazardous waste is a distinct liquid oil/solvent mixture floating on the ground water surface in layers as much as six feet thick (this is called a light, non-aqueous phase liquid, or LNAPL). The Focused Feasibility Study (FFS) is supposed to be a fast-tracked study to find the best way to clean up the LNAPL so that can begin as soon as possible, before the comprehensive studies can be completed. On December 5, 2014 EPA gave CTS approval to begin the FFS and published a project schedule that indicates the FFS will be completed in the fall of 2015. AMEC began the field work for the FFS on January 5, 2015.

Areas of Greatest Concern

POWER’s main focus has been to get CTS to take concrete action to stop the release of contamination from the site. For many years, the former plant property has been an uncontrolled source of hazardous waste sitting atop a hill, releasing contamination, and endangering nearby people and the environment. CTS will take the first step toward that goal with the Focused Feasibility study, but this will only address one part of the problem: the LNAPL in shallow soil.

There are still a lot of problems with plans to study and remediate the site:

  • The much bigger problem of extremely high levels of TCE in deep ground water in the bedrock has not even begun to be studied. Previous studies indicate presence of a residual TCE in the form of a dense, non-aqueous phase liquid (DNAPL). DNAPL in fractured bedrock represents a long-term source of ground water contamination and is one of the most difficult types of contamination to clean up.
  • CTS’s proposed Focused Feasibility Study is woefully inadequate and will not do much to expedite LNAPL cleanup. Review by POWER’s Technical Advisor, EPA’s Superfund Technical Services Section, and the NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources (NCDENR) finds CTS’s proposal lacking, especially in that we still do not have basic yet critical information about the extent of the contamination, because CTS did not sample other areas of the site where LNAPL is likely to be present.
  • Overall, POWER remains concerned that CTS has been delaying real action as much as it can. CTS has dragged its feet at every step along the way, fighting EPA’s listing of the site on the Superfund National Priorities List, questioning EPA’s technical analyses that the site contaminated far-away, deep bedrock wells and other obstructions. CTS continues to get away with doing only the minimum, performing inadequate studies that only draw out the time it takes to determine the extent of the site problems. The remedial investigation is already delayed by over two and a half years.

Water Protection Award

“Extra Mile to Protect Water” Award Presented to Buncombe County Board of Commissioners

POWER Action Group and Clean Water for North Carolina presented the “Extra Mile to Protect Community Water Award” award to the Buncombe County Board of Commissioners on October 21, 2014 in appreciation for the work done by Buncombe County to protect our community’s water resources. Clean Water for North Carolina is a statewide organization promoting clean, safe water and empowered, just communities through community organizing, advocacy, education and technical assistance.

Buncombe County award photo
Members of POWER and Clean Water for NC present the award in October.
Katie Hicks, Assistant Director of Clean Water for North Carolina, provided the following statement at the presentation:

“Although there has been much disappointing news around the still-toxic CTS site in recent years, we want to recognize the county’s efforts to protect residents’ health and safety near the site. This includes your decision to condemn and demolish the building, running public water lines to the area, and committing to conduct free well tests for residents who do not live within the 1-mile radius of the site currently being tested by the federal EPA. We also wish to thank you for your recent authorization to seek reimbursement from CTS so that the responsible party, not Buncombe County taxpayers, has to foot the bill. We look forward to continuing to work with the county to ensure that this toxic legacy in our community does not continue to have tragic consequences for residents’ health.”