COMMUNITY; GOVERNMENT; ENVIRONMENT
Compiled by Michelle Cassell
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.