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Investigative Report: CTS vs. EPA

Updated: Tuesday, April 21 2015, 11:14 AM EDT
Investigative Report: CTS vs. EPA story image
New information regarding the legal battle between the EPA and the company accused of leaving behind a toxic waste site in South Asheville. Three federal judges are set to decide whether the CTS Superfund site should be taken off the National Priorities List, or NPL.

The US Court of Appeals filed an order to schedule oral arguments from both sides on April 10th, 2014.  The EPA says if judges decide the site should be taken off the NPL, then the cleanup will be in serious jeopardy.

For nearly three decades, CTS used the toxic chemical, trichloroethylene, or "TCE", to degrease electrical components at their Asheville plant.  Since closing in 1986, high levels of TCE were found in the soil and drinking water of nearby residents.  In 2012, the EPA listed the site on the NPL, which is a list that not only helps to expedite a cleanup but it can also force the contaminator to pay for it.

Less than 3 months after the site was listed on the NPL, CTS’s attorneys demanded it be removed. In court records filed on February 24th, CTS claims the EPA had no evidence to justify putting the site on the NPL. CTS says this was only done to, "Satisfy political demands at the price of needlessly diverting resources from sites of actual environmental risk."

The EPA can only put a site on the NPL if it scores high enough on their Hazard Ranking System (HRS). CTS claims the EPA then, "Directed its staff to figure out how to get the score" high enough, so officials included "TCE found in wells at the Oaks Subdivision, three quarters of a mile away from the plant".

But CTS says the, "EPA ignored obvious evidence that TCE in the wells came from a local source," such as septic tanks and not the plant. The EPA's website does indicate TCE has been used as an additive in septic tanks to break down grease.

CTS says the EPA has been "Turning a blind eye" to this possibility in an attempt to avoid "Uncovering the inconvenient truth." CTS also points to a public meeting held in September of 2010 where, they claim, an EPA official admitted the site doesn't meet the NPL criteria, because the contamination did not affect enough people in the nearby community.

At that meeting, former EPA Region 4 official Don Rigger stated, "There aren't that many folks there; there are no big municipal wells that supply water to five thousand people."

The EPA says CTS is wrong, pointing to a 2011 report showing the EPA's three year investigation found the "Leaking septic systems are not probable sources of contamination in the Oaks."  The EPA claims CTS has built "An entire argument based on flawed assertions" that the EPA failed to address" the septic issue. The EPA contends, as a result, CTS has "Fallen on its own sword."

If removed from the NPL, the CTS site would revert back to the state and taxpayers would be stuck with much of the cleanup costs.  However, CTS says it would still continue working with officials towards a resolution.
Investigative Report: CTS vs. EPA
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