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Hazardous chemical waste sites in Bear Creek under investigation

Posted Tuesday, August 9, 2005

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DATE: 8/3/2005

The Health Department has been made aware that property located at 17570 NC HWY 902, Bear Creek is under investigation by the NC Division of Waste Management for the potential illegal discharge of hazardous materials. A Notification of Inactive Hazardous Substance or Waste Disposal Site for the facility dated January 20, 2004 was filed for the site with the Division of Waste Management by Ed Aguirre Earth Science, LLC. The site was added to the state’s Inactive Hazardous Site Inventory database on May 28, 2004.

Carmine Rocco, Health Director was contacted in June by Sue Robbins, Division of Waste Management, DENR to advise him that she would be in the county to conduct a site visit to the former Woodson-Tenent Laboratory, 17570 NC HWY 902. At his request, Ms. Robbins provided a copy of the DWM’s file on the property which was received on July 5, 2005.

A review of the file and further investigation by the Environmental Health Division staff is summarized below.

Prior to 1987, a business, R & R Tire Company was operated by Rex Wilkie at this address. Environmental Health Division records indicate that a septic permit for domestic waste was issued in 1983 to accommodate the business. In 1987, Woodson-Tenent Laboratories, Inc. (WTL) leased the building located on the property and converted it to an agricultural and food products testing laboratory. During the period between 1987 and 2000, WTL ran tests for proteins, fats, and elemental compounds in food, feed, pet food, animal health products and dietary supplements. WTL operated a lab at this location until 2000 when it became Eurofins Scientific, Inc. Eurofins operated the laboratory at the location until January 2004. Currently an animal feed and food testing laboratory, Carolina Analytical Laboratory is in business at this location. According to NC Articles of Organization, the members of this company are H. Nelson Beavers, III, H. Chester Beavers and Jennie Beavers Stewart. Chester and Cathy Beavers are listed as property owners.

In converting the building for use as a laboratory, WTL installed 5 sinks as part of the analytical equipment and connected them to a new plumbing system. The drain for one of the sinks which received wastewater from an atomic absorption test was piped to a septic system that was installed in the early 1990s. This process used hydrochloric acid, ammonium vanadate, ammonium molybdate, perchloric acid and lanthanum oxide. According to Nelson Beavers, who is a co-owner of the current company, Carolina Analytical Laboratories, LLC. and has ownership/employment history with Woodson-Tenent and Eurofins, the septic system was installed in the early 1990s. No permit for this system can be located in the Environmental Health files and Mr. Beavers has reported that they are unable to locate documentation that would substantiate the issuance of a permit by this department. The system appears to be partially located on property behind the building and owned by Rexford and Moncie Wilkie. There is a deeded easement for this purpose.

The other 4 sinks were connected to a system of PVC piping installed outside the back wall of the building, piped approximately 150 yards to a pre-existing pond located on adjacent property and discharged into that pond. According to documents provided by DWM, WTL discharged 1,000-2,000 gallons per day during peak operation. Chemicals utilized in their processes included potassium sulfate, mercuric oxide, titanium oxide, volcanic pumice, some or all of which may have been present in wastewater from the process. After 1988, WTL substituted copper sulfate for mercuric oxide in the protein analysis procedure. According to the records provided to DWM by Chester Beavers, owner of the property where the building is located and the property where the pond is located, the pipe to the pond was capped at the pond on January 14, 2004 and capped at the building on November 26, 2004. We are unable to locate any discharge permit for this operation.

Present Status
An investigation was conducted by Andy Siegner, Holly Coleman and Carmine Rocco on July 18, 2005. Carolina Analytical Laboratories, LLC continues to operate an animal feed and food product testing facility at this location. Newton Beavers and Ms. Stewart were present during the investigation and were cooperative. Mr. Beavers explained the testing procedures and identified where the waste was being directed. County water billing records have been obtained and it appears that water usage is minimal at this time, indicating a reduction in volume of wastewater. The Environmental Health Division staff are continuing the investigation to verify where the wastewater is being directed.

As a result of the investigation a Notice of Violation was issued on July 25, 2005 for violations of NC General Statute 130A-335, which requires that an approved wastewater system be provided; and 130-337, which requires that a septic system be inspected prior to being placed into use. The NOV ordered the immediate cessation of discharge of laboratory waste and the submittal of an application for an industrial wastewater permit or verification that waste in not hazardous.

Concerns and Future Steps
A letter dated June 1, 2004 to persons considered to be responsible parties from Sue Robbins of the Inactive Hazardous Sites Branch, Superfund Section of the Division of Waste Management wrote, “The Division of Waste Management (Division) has determined that there is a release, or substantial threat of a release into the environmental of a hazardous substance from the Site. Based on the fact that hazardous substances have already migrated from the laboratory facility to the farm pond, and the potential for hazardous substance to have migrated from the site to adjacent residential properties, the Division considers the Site to be a high priority for assessment.” In this letter, the responsible parties were given 90 days to submit a draft Site Assessment Plan.

This plan was submitted on April 14, 2005. In conversations with Ms. Robbins, it is understood that Armstrong Environmental Inc. has been retained by past or present owners or some combination of these parties. According to Ms. Robbins, the consulting firm recently collected groundwater, sediment and soil samples on the property. She said that an environmental assessment report, summarizing the results of the testing and a proposal for remediation is due to the state in August. She indicated that a plan to survey wells in the area for potential contamination would be a component of the proposal.

Main concerns of Chatham County include:

1) The extent of migration of any hazardous constituents is unknown.

2) Property owners that may be impacted by this site have not been notified of the potential risk that may exist. Several residents in the area have wells and depend upon them for drinking water supplies, despite the availability of county water on Hwy 902. All wells, both active and inactive should be tested to determine if any hazardous constituents are present. These wells must be identified and owners contacted.

3) Improved communication with the Division of Waste Management is vital.

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Hazardous chemical waste sites in Bear Creek under investigation

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