Updates on Coal Ash at 828 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. from Town of Chapel Hill’s perspective

COMMUNITY; GOVERNMENT; ENVIRONMENT

Compiled by Michelle Cassell
Managing Editor 

The Local Reporter received this update from the Town of Chapel Hill Wednesday evening. We have decided to share this in its entirety as submitted through a press release from the Town of Chapel Hill’s Communications Department.

The Town of Chapel Hill is sharing several updates about the presence of coal ash at 828 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. Since the Town discovered the materials in late  2013, they have continued to work with a variety of partners to follow environmental laws and regulations to ensure the health and safety of the community.

This message includes updates and next steps regarding the following:

  • A recent petition for an EPA assessment of the site
  • A recent EPA draft risk assessment about coal ash
  • The status of a draft Brownfields agreement

The site is home to the Chapel Hill Police Department and the Town is currently  working to move the Police Department to The Parkline at 1830 Fordham  Boulevard.

Petition for EPA Assessment of 828 Site

Earlier this week, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)  responded to a petition from the Center for Biological Diversity asking the EPA to  conduct a Preliminary Assessment (PA) at the 828 site. The EPA indicated that the  petition met the federal requirements for a PA and that they will conduct that  assessment within the next year. 

In their petition response, the EPA details what’s included in a PA, which will  “determine whether a site poses a threat to human health or the environment  and whether the threat requires further investigation.” The PA will include a site  visit and a review of existing information and documents related to the property  and the presence of CCRs there. 

Town Manager Chris Blue says that the Town will continue to seek out the best,  most up-to-date scientific information to inform decision-making about the future  of the site. “We welcome this EPA assessment, as it will help us make well informed decisions. Since we found CCRs at the site in 2013, we have worked with  numerous partners to gather information and consider options, with the health  and safety of our employees and community first and foremost in our minds.”

EPA Draft Risk Assessment About Coal Ash

Late last year, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a draft risk  assessment about the effects of coal ash residuals (CCRs). The draft document reports higher cancer risks associated with coal ash, specifically at electric power  plant sites that have CCRs present. 

Town staff and consultants are reviewing this document, as are their partners at  the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (NCDEQ). Once they  have completed the document review, they will have a fuller sense of how it  relates to the 828 site and the current work on a Brownfields agreement. 

John Richardson, the Town’s Community Sustainability Manager, has worked  closely with the NCDEQ and other partners on the 828 site for several years. “While the EPA draft report looked at the lingering effects of CCRs at power  plants, we are working with our partners to consider what this means for our site. The regulatory issues at hand are complex, but our priorities are straightforward – the health and safety of our community and our Town staff.”

Draft Brownfields Agreement

The Town is actively collaborating with NCDEQ on a Brownfields agreement. This  agreement will stipulate what uses will be allowed on the property, as well as  additional remediation and ongoing monitoring requirements. The Town has  asked NCDEQ to consider allowing a range of non-residential uses, however they  are not requesting consideration for housing of any kind.

Once the Town receives the final draft agreement from NCDEQ, there is a  required 30-day public comment period. In addition to that, the Town will host  one or more public meetings. The Town expects to have that draft agreement this  spring unless new information or action from the EPA or NCDEQ affects that  timeline. 

Town Manager Chris Blue says there’s still a lot of work to be done before any  decisions are made regarding the future of the site. “The only decision we’ve  made is not to put any housing there. 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.”

Blue went on to say, “That agreement, along with feedback from DEQ and other  partners and engagement with community members, will give our Town Council  the opportunity to thoughtfully consider future uses and next steps.”

To find out more information about the 828 site, including all related Town  documents and reports, visit the Town’s website.

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1 Comment on "Updates on Coal Ash at 828 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. from Town of Chapel Hill’s perspective"

  1. Last October, EPA released a draft revised risk assessment for coal ash, finding dramatically increased cancer risks from exposure to radioactive elements and arsenic, both of which are prevalent in the coal ash dump at 828 MLK. For example, the agency increased its assessment of the cancer potency of arsenic in coal ash by 3500%. We hope that EPA will take the time needed to incorporate the findings from a finalized risk assessment into its response to our petition. The agency needs to use the most up-to-date science in order to protect public health and the environment from this toxic contamination.

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