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

POWER Calls on EPA to Remove Uncontrolled Contamination

Recent data shows that a large amount of TCE (a known human carcinogen) continues to migrate without control from beneath the CTS of Asheville site. The former electroplating facility was added to the EPA’s Superfund list for high-priority toxic sites in March of 2012, meaning that it poses significant risk to human health and the environment.

The site is at the top of a hill relative to hundreds of homes within a one-mile radius. POWER is concerned because a large amount of already identified unconfined source material (TCE) is still present under the CTS facility. Because of bedrock fractures, it is not clear exactly where this uncontained mass of TCE is going.

Data from 2009 show extremely high concentrations of TCE in two top-of-bedrock monitoring wells on the site: 35,000 parts per billion (ppb) and 42,000 ppb. The EPA’s maximum contaminant level for TCE in drinking water is 5 ppb, so these levels are thousands of times higher than what is considered safe. The continued leaching of this toxin presents a threat to humans, animals and the environment well beyond the gated perimeter of the CTS facility.

POWER is calling on the EPA to STOP and REMOVE the known high levels of contamination oozing uncontrolled from the CTS site and DO IT NOW.

Technical Advisor Hired for CTS Site

Asheville, NC – Frank Anastasi is the new professional Technical Advisor hired by grassroots community group POWER (Protecting Our Water and Environmental Resources). Anastasi will provide guidance during remediation of the CTS Superfund Site in South Asheville.

In March 2012 CTS of Asheville, a former electroplating facility, was added to the EPA’s National Priorities List (NPL). The carcinogen trichloroethylene (TCE) has been found at high levels on and near the former facility. POWER recently received a $50,000.00 Technical Assistance Grant to employ a consultant.

Anastasi is an independent hydrogeologist and environmental consultant with over 30 years experience in contaminated site investigations and remediation projects. “Proven technologies are available to address the problems at the CTS site,” Anastasi said, “I look forward to helping POWER and the community advocate for taking effective remedial action as soon as possible.”

Anastasi has worked on Superfund sites since 1985. In the late 1980s, he began supporting citizen groups concerned about contamination in their communities.

“We are excited to have Frank on board,” said Lee Ann Smith, chair of POWER. “Frank’s broad experience working across the full spectrum of hazardous waste site cleanups, coupled with his deep technical knowledge and understanding of the Superfund process, will strengthen POWER’s ability to have the community’s concerns addressed.”

Melody Markert, a local resident who helped choose the technical advisor, commented that during the interview Anastasi seemed knowledgeable, caring, and understanding of the issues. “He has a good concept of what we are wanting to accomplish and how to go about resolving the problems in a manner that will best serve our children, families,
neighbors, and the community of Asheville, now and in the future,” Markert said.

Anastasi believes that education is an important component of contaminated site cleanup efforts. “I help local citizens understand the reality of their situation. Regardless of how thorough, no remedial action is complete unless concerned members of the community understand what has happened,” Anastasi said. “The community has to live with the legacy of having a Superfund site for a neighbor, long after the dust settles and EPA, the polluters, and all their lawyers and contractors have left town.”

Download a PDF of this press release!

POWER Chair to speak at local church

Earth & Social Justice Potluck & Discussion – Unitarian Universalist Church of Asheville
1 Edwin Pl, Asheville, NC 28801 (Directions)

Topic: CTS Superfund Site in South Asheville
Tuesday, February 18, 5:30pm (SH)
The history of the CTS of Asheville site is one of incessant chemical contamination and human suffering. It was named a Superfund site by the EPA in 2012. Please join us on February 18 as we welcome guest speaker, Lee Ann Smith, a South Asheville resident and co-founder of the P.O.W.E.R. Action Group. She will share her story about how CTS has directly impacted her family, the community she lives in, and what we can do to help. FMI, contact Rev. Lisa Bovee-Kemper.

Property Owners Adversely Affected by CTS– You Can File a Claim

Many people in the Arden/South Asheville area have been adversely impacted by the CTS site. If you are one of those you might be interested to know that the Dungan Law Firm is hosting a meeting on Wednesday, January 22, 2014 at 6:00 p.m. at the Skyland fire Department. The CTS case will be discussed, with emphasis on the property owner’s time limitations for filing a claim. Attorneys Jeffrey K. Stahl, Robert Dungan, and Joseph Anderson will be at the meeting to answer questions. If you are interested in acquiring representation you may sign up with the attorneys on Wednesday.

If you have questions regarding the lawsuit or the meeting, please contact:

Jeffrey K. Stahl

The Dungan Law Firm

828-254-4778, ext. 32

jstahl@dunganlaw.com

CTS Lawsuit Headed to Supreme Court

The lawsuit that members of the South Asheville community filed against CTS Corporation is headed to the Supreme Court. After the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the community, CTS Corporation–the company that has polluted South Asheville for decades–appealed. Last week, the Supreme Court said that they would hear the appeal.

The Court’s decision could have powerful implications for citizens’ lawsuits against polluters and for the Environmental Justice movement in general, which calls for “universal protection” against toxic wastes. While POWER would have rather the Court have rejected CTS’s appeal, we believe the Supreme Court now has the opportunity to enforce a full-scale cleanup of the CTS of Asheville Superfund site and provide a precedent for contaminated sites–and inflicted communities–across the nation. Read more about the lawsuit here: http://www.courthousenews.com/2014/01/10/64440.htm

As the EPA continues to test for toxins at the site, POWER will work to hold the Agency accountable. Read the most recent EPA community update here: CTS Community Update 12.11.2013.

POWER is hiring a Technical Advisor

POWER is soliciting proposals for a technical advisor to provide assistance in the review and analysis of cleanup activities conducted by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region IV at the CTS of Asheville Superfund site.

For the job description and how to apply, click here (PDF). Applications are due January 10, 2014 by 5:00 p.m. and should be sent to info@poweractiongroup.org.