EPA denies petition for coal ash cleanup

Site of coal ash dump in Chapel Hill. Photo courtesy of the Center Biological Diversity.


by Michelle Cassell
Managing Editor 

UPDATE: TLR reached out to the Town of Chapel Hill for comment on the decision. It is not clear and was not answered if they knew of the decision before this article. The media relations manager Susan Brown sent  this comment:

“The Town is working with the EPA to get a copy of its decision regarding the petition so that we can thoroughly review and understand their findings. We still expect to receive a draft Brownfields agreement this Spring or Summer. A final Brownfields agreement will outline what the Town can do at the property. After that, the Town Council – in collaboration with Town staff and community – can decide what we will do”

TLR reported in January 2024 that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had determined that the Center for Biological Diversity had met the requirements to petition for the designation of 828 Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard as a potential Superfund site.

In an email (obtained with permission by TLR) to Perrin de Jong, Southeast Staff Attorney, Center for Biological Diversity, Sandra Bramble stated, “The EPA has reviewed your request and determined that your letter meets the requirements of 40 Code of Federal Regulation which allows any person who is, or may be, affected by a release or threatened release of hazardous substances, pollutants, or contaminants, to petition the EPA to conduct a PA [Preliminary Assessment]. Therefore, the EPA will enter this site into its active PA database and initiate the PA.” Sandra Bramble is the site assessment manager in the Restoration and Site Evaluation  Section (RSES) of the Superfund and Emergency Management Division at the EPA, Region 4.

On May 1, the Center for Biological Diversity received a notice from Bramble that read in part,

“The Town of Chapel Hill and the NCBP [North Carolina Brownfields Program] are negotiating a BFA [brown fields agreement]. In addition to the assessment and IRM [integrated risk management] activities already conducted, the BFA will outline the need for additional assessment and remediation, if any, based on the intended future reuse/redevelopment plans, which do not include residential use. The Town of Chapel Hill anticipates that a draft of the agreement will be available for public comment in spring 2024. As a result, the EPA recommends that future activities at the site be conducted under the purview of the NCBP.”

Perrin de Jong, Southeast Staff Attorney for the Center for Biological Diversity, reached out to TLR with the following comments:  “EPA’s ‘abbreviated’ review of the arsenic, mercury, and lead contamination at 828 MLK looks like a box-checking exercise for the agency to rubber stamp Chapel Hill’s plan to redevelop the coal ash dump without removing the contamination.” EPA acknowledged that construction workers involved in redeveloping the site would be exposed to unacceptable risk due to the contamination and that the drinking water supply for 566 local residents would also be at risk. The agency also refused to look at how residential neighbors, users of the Bolin Creek greenway, and traffic on MLK Jr. Boulevard would be exposed to toxic coal ash as it blows around in the air. So it’s beyond me how the agency can endorse Chapel Hill’s plan to use the state brownfields program to redevelop the site on top of this leaking coal ash dump.”

TLR will continue to follow this important story.

Michelle Cassell is a seasoned reporter who has covered everything from crime to hurricanes and local politics to human interest over the course of 35 years. As managing editor, she hopes to encourage writers of a wide range of backgrounds and interests in TLR’s coverage of Southern Orange County news. 
This reporter can be reached at Info@TheLocalReporter.press

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1 Comment on "EPA denies petition for coal ash cleanup"

  1. Wow! Talk about incompetence! Very timely. Please keep on following this story.

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