EPA adds two sites in Southeast to Superfund National Priorities List

January 9, 2014

Since its creation in 1980, the federal Superfund program has included a requirement that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regularly update the National Priorities List (NPL) with contaminated sites that require attention. Back in December, the agency added two that are located in North Carolina.

According to an EPA press release, the first, known as Cristex Drum, is a former fabric mill in Oxford, N.C. The second, Hemphill Road TCE, is a former chemical drum recycling plant in Gastonia, N.C.

A 22-acre property containing a 150,000 square-foot building, Cristex Drum was a manufacturing site from 1965 to 1986, at which point it became a warehouse space. During the height of its productivity, the mill handled the nylon acetate Tricot. The result, according to the EPA, was the release of tetrachloroethene (PCE), trichloroethene (TCE), dichloroethene (DCE), vinyl chloride, benzene, chlorobenzene and heavy metals into nearby soil and groundwater. It is believed that many of these chemicals could pose a danger to local residents who draw their drinking water from wells near the site.

Operating during roughly the same span of years, Hemphill Road TCE was used as a site to recycle thousands of chemical drums, which were later re-sold as scrap metal. In the late 1980's, the EPA reported that Trichloroethene (TCE) had been found in groundwater near the site and was traced back to the operation. in this case, private drinking wells in nearby communities have already been contaminated.

The fact that these sites are now listed as Superfund land does not obligate the EPA to fund any remediation efforts—instead, the agency seeks out the current or former owners of the land for that purpose. However, the list serves to demonstrate the agency's priorities when it comes to cleaning up some of the nation's most contaminated land.

In fact, recent studies have suggested that the addition of a site to the NPL can be a good thing for the surrounding area. First, the promise of cleanup action often results in increased property values. That's because the process of remediation helps improve human health and the local economy, making residents and businesses feel more positive about staying in the area.

The EPA claims that it has listed 1,694 sites to the NPL since 1983, and that 68 percent have been remediated. 

Progress continues to be made in the Southeast. In addition to the two North Carolina sites that were just added to the NPL, another site in Collierville, Tennessee is reportedly being considered. The property previously housed Walker Machine Products, Inc.—a former machine screw products manufacturer that may have caused contamination.

These polluted industrial properties can be turned into useable space through groundwater and soil remediation techniques. By partnering with an environmental consulting firm, municipalities, property owners and potential buyers can better manage their liabilities—as well as costs—while also maintaining a strict cleanup schedule.