POWER Announces Community Meeting with EPA

Concerned citizens in south Asheville and the greater Buncombe County area are invited to attend an informational meeting about the contaminated CTS site on Tuesday, July 29th at the T.C. Roberson High School auditorium from 6:00 to 7:30 PM. This meeting, entitled “The Road to Cleanup,” will provide the latest technical information on the contamination at the CTS site, outline steps necessary for immediate cleanup action, and allow a forum for residents to ask questions of technical experts and the EPA. The meeting is hosted by POWER Action Group, an Asheville-based non-profit advocating for a comprehensive cleanup at the contaminated CTS of Asheville Superfund site.

Road-To-Clean-Up-Logo

 The CTS site, a former electroplating facility run by CTS Corporation from 1959 to 1986, was declared a Superfund site in 2012. On July 8th of this year CTS Corp. lost a lawsuit against the EPA, confirming that the site will remain on the Superfund list.

 The main presenter at the meeting will be Frank Anastasi, P.G., Principal of SCA Associates and technical advisor for POWER. Mr. Anastasi will present an analysis of recent testing, and explain the urgency for EPA to take immediate action at the CTS site. Gibbie Harris, Buncombe County Health Director, will speak on the county’s expanded water testing program and extension of water lines to the area surrounding CTS.

 EPA representatives will offer updates on stream cleanup plans, and air testing and water/soil sampling. This is the first community-led CTS forum in over three years in which the EPA will take part.

 Because of the continuing release of carcinogens such as trichloroethylene (TCE) from the site, and the evacuation of thirteen residents near the site in June 2014, there is a pressing need for source removal at the CTS site. In a Congressional hearing, EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy acknowledged that the site poses an immediate risk to public health in South Asheville. POWER continues to push for swift action at the site, and invites community members to attend this important meeting and learn what they can do to speed up the process of getting these toxins out of our community.

CTS Corp. Loses Lawsuit Against EPA

CTS CORPORATION LOSES LAWSUIT AGAINST EPA,

CTS SITE TO REMAIN ON SUPERFUND LIST

(ASHEVILLE- July 08, 2014) The D.C. Court of Appeals has ruled against CTS Corporation, deciding that the CTS of Asheville Superfund site must remain on the EPA’s Superfund inventory despite the company’s objections. CTS Corporation, which ran its Asheville facility from 1959 until 1986, sued the EPA in an effort to remove the contaminated site from Superfund. Finding that the site is indeed heavily polluted with carcinogens such as trichloroethylene (TCE), the court’s ruling in favor of the EPA will hugely benefit the Asheville community that is afflicted by CTS Corporation’s pollution.

 Claiming that CTS’s arguments amounted to “little more than methodological nit-picking,” the Court rejected CTS’s attempt to evade responsibility for its own contamination. “Each of CTS’s objections,” the court stated, “is without merit, forfeited, or impermissibly based on extra-record evidence.” In addition, the Court’s decision bolsters the EPA’s scientific assessment of the site, clearing the way for cleanup.

CTS Smackdown

 In large part, the EPA prevailed because of its rigorous on-site testing, which asserted CTS Corporation squarely liable for the pollution. According to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, the CTS site “can significantly impact public health” in South Asheville.

 “This is a great decision for the residents around the plant and for EPA,” Julie Mayfield, executive director of the Western North Carolina Alliance (WNCA), said in a statement. “CTS now has no shield left to hide behind, so hopefully they will change their approach and now work aggressively to complete the investigation and begin cleaning up the site.”

 POWER praises the court’s decision, as it will encourage EPA to secure clean water, air, and land for residents surrounding the CTS site. In light of the evacuation of thirteen residents near the site in June, it is imperative that EPA halt the exposure of residents to carcinogens such as trichloroethylene (TCE). With the CTS site’s placement on the Superfund list secure, EPA should now dedicate its resources towards comprehensive source removal, such that residents’ exposure to TCE is ended with all the urgency it demands.

To read the Asheville Citizen-Times article, click here.

To read the Court’s opinion, click here.

U.S. Congresspeople Push Justice for Those Harmed by CTS

Senator Kay Hagan (D-NC) and Rep. Butterfield (D-NC) have proposed legislation on a national level that would nullify North Carolina’s statute of repose, paving the way for lawsuits related to toxic contamination to proceed.

POWER applauds the decision, as it is a first step to rectifying the injustice of the Supreme Court’s decision against the Asheville community in the CTS v. Waldburger case.

Sen. Kay Hagan (D-NC)
Rep. G. K. Butterfield (D-NC)

From the Congresspeople’s offices:

Hagan, Butterfield Introduce Legislation to Allow Justice for Individuals Harmed by Toxic Pollution
 
Bill Enables Camp Lejeune and CTS Victims to Seek Redress 
 
June 27, 2014
Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Kay Hagan and Congressman G.K. Butterfield introduced legislation in the Senate and House that will protect the ability of North Carolinians harmed by toxic chemicals to seek legal recourse, including Marines harmed by contaminated drinking water at Camp Lejeune and families exposed to toxic chemicals at the CTS superfund site near Asheville. A recent Supreme Court ruling could prevent these individuals and families from pursuing legal recourse, and Hagan and Butterfield’s legislation clarifies that federal law preempts state laws that limit the timeframe in which damages could be recovered for injuries and diseases that often do not appear for decades after toxic exposure.
“This legislation clarifies the intent of existing federal law and addresses the Supreme Court’s recent ruling that delivered a major blow to the servicemembers and families affected by the water contamination at Camp Lejeune and the CTS site, making it nearly impossible for these victims to seek justice under the law,” Hagan said.  “One short-sighted decision by the U.S. Supreme Court should not stand in the way of getting these victims the answers and justice they deserve.”
“North Carolinians and people across the country deserve protection from hazardous substances with the potential to endanger public health and the environment,” Butterfield said.  “Those who release harmful substances into the environment have a responsibility to clean up contamination and address any suffering they have caused.  This bill protects federal Superfund law as we know it, holds polluters accountable, and defends the rights of communities in North Carolina and across the country.”
In 2012, Hagan helped pass the bipartisan Honoring America’s Veterans and Caring for Camp Lejeune Families Act, which ensured that those who were exposed to contaminated water at Camp Lejeune will receive the health care they need and deserve from the VA. She was also instrumental in ensuring that the Department of Defense released documents related to the water contamination to the public.
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Following meetings with POWER, McHenry Advocates for Action

Members of POWER recently met with Representative Patrick McHenry (R-NC10) regarding efforts to clean up the CTS site. McHenry pledged to support the cleanup effort by holding the EPA accountable for actions taken at the site.

In a June 25th hearing with EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy, McHenry advocated for EPA to take immediate action at the site. “Will the EPA urge CTS…to move forward immediately to address the…contamination?” he asked.

POWER thanks the Congressman for his on-point questions that address the most pressing concerns at the CTS site.

See video footage here of McHenry Questioning the EPA.

EPA to Host Public Availability Session

On Monday, June 23, 2014, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will host a public availability session regarding air sampling at the CTS of Asheville, Inc. Site.
EPA representatives and North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (NC DHHS) representatives will be available to talk to citizens one-on-one regarding on-going activities conducted at the CTS of Asheville, Inc. Site. The EPA encourages those interested in attending to drop in between 6:00pm and 9:00pm at the Quality Inn & Suites, Biltmore Room located at 1 Skyline Inn Drive, Arden, NC.
During the week of June 23, 2014, CTS Corporation’s contractor, with EPA oversight, will conduct additional outdoor air, indoor air and crawl space air sampling at properties adjacent to or near the springs area located east of the Site. The proposed air sampling locations were selected based on the results of EPA air sampling in 2007 and 2008, and in consideration of the April 2014 air sampling results. The preliminary sampling results are expected to be received by the EPA the following week.

CTS. Corp. Challenging Superfund Listing

CTS Corporation, the company responsible for the pollution at the CTS of Asheville Superfund site, is taking the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to court over its listing on the Superfund program.

“This is a highly toxic site,” stated Lee Ann Smith, chairwoman of POWER, “and it needs to remain on the [Superfund] list so that all necessary actions can be taken and EPA has the full resources to do what they need to do.”

Read the Asheville Citizen-Times article on the court case here.

The CTS of Asheville Superfund site.

EPA Evacuates Residents Near CTS Due to Toxic Air

The Environmental Protection Agency is now evacuating thirteen residents near the CTS of Asheville Superfund site, due to contamination of the air in and around their homes with the carcinogen trichloroethylene (TCE). CTS Corporation used TCE as a degreasing agent while they operated their Asheville-based facility from 1959 until 1986.

Bob Taylor, left, and Terry Rice, stand next to a sign warning of contaminated springs on the property where they live next to the former CTS plant (credit: Asheville Citizen-Times).

For several months now, POWER Action Group has been urging the EPA to conduct an interim removal action at the CTS site because of risks of exposure to area residents. Finding these high levels of TCE in the air vapor assessments is further proof that the contamination is migrating, poses a threat to human health and the environment, and that the source must be removed immediately.

See the Asheville Citizen-Times report here: http://www.citizen-times.com/story/news/local/2014/06/07/residents-cope-toxic-air-threat/10183623/

Toxic plume revealed at Asheville CTS site

An Asheville group pushing for the cleanup said EPA shouldn’t wait until its studies are finished before taking steps to get rid of the toxic mess.

Clarke Morrison, cmorrison@citizen-times.com, May 15, 2014
Read on Citizen-Times.com

ASHEVILLE – The first phase of testing performed in preparation for a Superfund cleanup revealed a plume of the toxic industrial solvent trichloroethylene mixed with petroleum floating on groundwater under the former CTS plant site.

The new information will be useful as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency determines the best methods to remove the contamination, said Samantha Urquhart-Foster, remedial project manager with the agency.

It was already known that there is massive groundwater contamination from trichloroethylene, or TCE, a chemical used by CTS for nearly three decades in the manufacturing process before the plant shut down in 1986.

“The sampling we did shows us how deep and wide the most concentrated contamination is so that we can develop a cleanup plan for it,” Urquhart-Foster said. “We expected to see the plume there. We didn’t expect to see the TCE and the petroleum intermixed.”

Lee Ann Smith, chair of a local group pushing for cleanup called Protecting Our Water and Environmental Resources, said the EPA shouldn’t wait until its studies are finished before taking steps to get rid of the toxic mess.

POWER received a $50,000 federal grant to hire an independent technical adviser for three years to interpret and help the community understand information about the site. The adviser, geologist Frank Anastasi, and members of the group received an update from EPA officials this week on the latest findings.

There are technologies available to go ahead and remove the plume of TCE and petroleum sitting on the water table without waiting for the full cleanup, Smith said.

“We’re asking EPA to get it out now,” she said. “It’s a blob of source material there under the site that’s a lot closer to the surface than originally thought. It is floating at just 10 to 15 feet below the ground surface. It’s spread out over a wide area under where the building was.”

Urquhart-Foster said she doesn’t know if the plume can be removed before the full Superfund cleanup, which won’t begin until at least 2016.

“We have Superfund processes that we have to go through,” she said. “We have to get legal and management approval before we go through with any type of cleanup.”

Anastasi said the meeting with EPA officials was helpful.

“While EPA has not yet committed to a specific plan of action, we believe they heard the community’s concerns and we are hopeful real cleanup will start soon,” he said.

CTS, based in Elkhart, Ind., manufactured electronic components at the plant on Mills Gap Road. In 1999, TCE was found in a spring feeding two wells next to the plant property at a level of 21,000 parts per billion, which is more than 7,000 times North Carolina’s groundwater standard for the chemical. Lower amounts of benzene, xylene and toluene also were found.

TCE, which has been linked to cancer, liver and kidney damage and immune system disorders, was found in 2001 at even higher levels under the former plant. The chemical also was detected in several drinking water wells at nearby homes that since have been connected to the city water system.

Some residents say the contamination has made them sick. Smith said her sons played in the area around the plant as boys. One was later diagnosed with a rare type of thyroid cancer, and had to have his thyroid glands removed. The other developed a benign tumor.

Smith believes chemicals released by the plant played a role in their ailments.

“We have no family history of this sort of thing,” she said. “As a parent you’re thrown for a loop when you get that kind of diagnosis.”

Smith said her son’s oncologist thought environmental factors might be involved.

“When we were told he was cancer free, I started looking into what might have caused it, and I found out about this place and was shocked,” she said. “They played in the area behind the CTS site.”

Urquhart-Foster said recent testing also showed that a soil vapor extraction system was successful in removing about 6,000 pounds of volatile organic compounds from the top 10 feet of soil at the plant site.

“The heavily contaminated part is in the groundwater beneath the former building,” she said.

Law Article: Justices Lean Toward Landowners

Justices Lean Toward Landowners In CERCLA Fight

By Sean McLernon
Law360, New York (April 23, 2014)

The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday signaled support for a decision to revive contamination claims against CTS Corp., suggesting that Congress did not believe there was a distinction between statutes of limitations and statutes of repose when it amended the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Liability and Compensation Act.

The North Carolina statute of repose at issue prevents plaintiffs from bringing any claims arising more than 10 years after an act of pollution occurred. The Fourth Circuit in July found that CERCLA preempts statutes of repose like the one in North Carolina, despite CERCLA’s exclusive use of the phrase “statute of limitations.”
Continue reading Law Article: Justices Lean Toward Landowners

Supreme Court to Hear CTS Case

Obama admin, company align against N.C. dump’s neighbors in Supreme Court showdown

Jeremy P. Jacobs, E&E reporter
Greenwire: Tuesday, April 8, 2014

ASHEVILLE, N.C. — When her son was 11, Lee Ann Smith was told what no parent wants to hear: Your child has cancer.

Three years later, she braced for another diagnosis. Her younger son had developed a large bone tumor in his leg.

“I was numb,” she recalled.

The tumor turned out to be benign, but it spurred Smith to search for the causes of her sons’ illnesses. Her family had no history of cancer or tumors.

She focused on an abandoned electroplating facility suspected of contaminating groundwater with solvents, some of which were known carcinogens. Her boys played in the creeks behind the shuttered plant.

Smith formed an activist group dedicated to a cleanup. And, in 2011, she and two dozen of the site’s neighbors filed a lawsuit against the plant’s former owner — CTS Corp. of Elkhart, Ind. — seeking damages and hoping to force the company to take remedial action.
Continue reading Supreme Court to Hear CTS Case