The building was demolished last year, but residents have kept pressing for a clean-up at the former CTS of Asheville site on Mills Gap Road. Nothing resides anymore at this location, except for tall grass and a desolated entrance shack.

CTS Demolition

Activists Shocked With SC Ruling

Local residents, along with activists, have demanded a cleanup of the Arden, North Carolina CTS Corporation site.

But after 15 years, they seemed devastated by a Supreme Court ruling for cleanup of Trichloroethylene, TCE, under CTS in South Asheville.

This Asheville group pushed for the cleanup, with the EPA saying one shouldn’t wait until studies are finished before the supposed underground plume is gone.

Expires After 15 Years

By a 7 to 2 margin, per current NC law, the SC ruled claims for injuries/physical disabilities were null-and-void after 10 years.

The SC said the homeowners can’t sue CTS Corporation for allegedly contaminating their water, because the state deadline has lapsed. The case revolved around a law giving a “period of repose” for pursuing legal action in a pollution case.

In dissent, was Justices Ginsburg and Breyer, both dyed-in-the-wool Democrats. Both wrongfully believed potential contaminators concealed the hazards until the repose period had run out. They seem to think cancer is able to know when the time is ‘right’ to spread its evil curse.

Samantha Urquhart-Foster, EPA’s Remedial Project Manager for CTS cleanup, said the recent SC ruling “won’t affect the investigation or cleanup of the site at all.”

Residents close to CTS said they noticed a slight chemical smell in 1999, 13 years after the plant closed and 12 years after CTS sold the property.

SC Ruling Actually Countrywide

This ruling also impacts Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune (/ləˈɜrn/ lə-JURN[2]). A 246 mile-squared United States military training facility in JacksonvilleNorth Carolina, had almost a million people possibly exposed to “TCE-laden” groundwater over several decades. Benefits to people exposed to the water from 1957-1987 have already been provided.

Shockingly (sic), out of hundreds of thousands, no person has ever died of cancer due to breathing/drinking water containing small amounts of TCE.

A level of 2 mg/m3 [two micrograms per cubic meter] is now considered a safe level of TCE. But EPA found readings of 16 ppb outside. A microgram is one-millionth of a gram.

Thus, a concentration of one ppm means there is one microgram of a substance per gram of solvent.

Those numbers, (parts per billion—are more than a thousand times smaller than the original 50 parts per million), and are now the minimum contact level for TCE.

Fact is, the toxicity of TCE did not change. EPA’s limit of detectability for extremely small quantities of TCE did (>1000).

Superfund Not Really Needed

Urquhart-Foster said cleanup of the underlying groundwater is the ultimate goal. However, EPA said this will probably not occur before 2016.

Those activists are now telling EPA to remove it. “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.”

Disappearing Plume?

Since the “plume” has never been seen, no one really knows it’s size and depth. But two years ago, they acquired a “Superfund” classification for the site. 

Preparation was made for a Superfund cleanup, with a supposed plume of TCE mixed with petroleum floating on groundwater under the former CTS location.

What was not said, is groundwater typically flows in downward gradients. Any TCE contamination would likely be diluted and eventually flushed after 13 years.

Typical Household Chemicals

Let’s put this whole picture in easily understandable terms:

The TLV for “TCE” (was) 50 ppm.

Other common chemical TLVs are:

o styrene/ 50 ppm [most plastics]

o acetic acid/ 25 ppm [main constituent in vinegar]

o ammonia/ 25 ppm [household cleaners]

o cellulose/ 10 ppm [organic polysaccharideD-glucose (C6H10O5); most abundant polymer]

o H2O2/ 1 ppm [hydrogen peroxide]

o DDT/ 28 ppm     [DichloroDiphenylTrichloroethane]

o nicotine/ 0.5 ppm [cigarettes]

o DME/ 1000 ppm [DiMethyl Ether; major constituent of hairspray; 17% flammability in air w/ ignition source]

It’s highly likely “chemophobia” has some Asheville residents by the throat.

That, and the possibility of making some money off the government.

In the long-run, it’ll still be the taxpayer footing the bill for their chemophobic tendencies.

Unless one wants to catch their hair on fire, it’s best not to hairspray around a plugged-in outlet.

Kevin Roeten can be reached at