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Celanese Corp. (Shelby Fibers Operations)

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Ground water treatment building on the Celanese Corporation site.

Additional Resources
Site Summary Profile
EPA ID: NCD003446721
Location: Shelby, Cleveland County, NC
Lat/Long: 35.208880, -081.528330
Congressional District: 09
NPL Status: Proposed: 10/15/84; Final: 06/10/86
Affected Media: Ground water, Sediment, Soil, Solid Waste
Cleanup Status: Construction Complete - Physical cleanup activities have been completed.
Human Exposure Under Control: Yes
Groundwater Migration Under Control: Yes
Sitewide Ready for Anticipated Use: No
Site Reuse/Redevelopment: Continued Industrial Use - A polyester resin and fiber manufacturing facility.
Site Manager: Ken Mallary (mallary.ken@epa.gov)


Current Site Status

The Celanese Corp. (Shelby Fibers Operation) site includes the area where the Celanese Corporation (Celanese) has operated a manufacturing facility since 1960. The EPA placed the site on the National Priorities List (NPL) in 1986 because of contaminated ground water, sediment and soil resulting from facility operations. The EPA, the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (NCDENR), and the site’s potentially responsible party (PRP) have investigated site conditions and taken steps to clean up the site in order to protect people and the environment from contamination. Site contamination does not currently threaten people living and working near the site. By treating contaminated soil and sediment, recovering and monitoring contaminated ground water, and conducting required Five-Year Reviews, the EPA, NCDENR and the site’s PRP continue to protect people and the environment from site contamination.

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Site Location and Background

The site is located near Shelby in a mostly rural area of Cleveland County, North Carolina. Surrounding land uses include residential and agricultural areas. The 450-acre site includes an active manufacturing facility owned and operated by Ticona, which is a Celanese subsidiary. CNA Holdings, Inc., another Celanese subsidiary, owns the site property and is responsible for environmental work there. The manufacturing facility has been operating on site since 1960. The Celanese plant originally produced filament thread and polyester staples used for apparel and bedding products. The facility continues to operate but in a limited capacity. 

The site includes a main plant production area, a wastewater treatment area, former waste disposal areas, and recreation and wooded areas. Operators previously used several areas around the plant for waste disposal. Operators disposed of plant wastes in old burning pits. North and east of the burning pits, operators disposed of glycol recovery unit bottoms (GRUBs) during the 1960s in trenches.

In 1986, the EPA listed the site on the NPL.

View site location map.

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Threats and Contaminants

Site investigations identified soil, ground water, and sediments at the site contaminated with a variety of facility-related compounds that could potentially harm people in the area. Contaminants of concern identified include metals, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs).

Cleanup actions have addressed threats to human health. Contamination has not affected Buffalo Creek, the source of drinking water for plant workers. The creek is located about a half mile from the site.

In the mid-1990s, the site’s PRP agreed to connect neighboring residential properties to Cleveland County's public water supply. By entering into the agreement, the residents received financing from Celanese and agreed to the capping and sealing of any wells on their properties. Future drilling of wells or reopening of existing wells on these properties is prohibited as long as a public source of water is available.

In late 2010 and early 2011, the PRP conducted a drinking water well survey. It did not find any private wells in use. Properties with water supply agreements were connected to Cleveland County's public water supply.

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Investigation and Cleanup Responsibility / Oversight

The site PRP leads site investigation and cleanup activities, with oversight provided by the EPA and NCDENR.

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Site Cleanup Plan

Site investigations and cleanup activities have focused on two areas, which the EPA refers to as operable units, or OUs. These areas include OU-1: ground water contamination; and OU-2: source contamination.

In 1988, the EPA issued a cleanup plan (a Record of Decision, or ROD) for OU-1. The plan included:

In 1989, the EPA issued a cleanup plan (ROD) for OU-2. The plan included:

Summaries of site cleanup approaches are also available online in key site cleanup documents, including the ROD and Five-Year Reviews.

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Cleanup Progress

In 1989, the site PRP put in the site’s ground water pump-and-treat system. It operated until 2004. That same year, after demonstrating that the system had reduced ground water contamination considerably, the EPA issued an Explanation of Significant Differences. Instead of continuing to use the ground water pump-and-treat system to treat ground water, the EPA allowed the PRP to evaluate the use of monitored natural attenuation (MNA) as an alternative ground water cleanup approach. In 2006, the EPA extended the MNA study period.

In 2010, the PRP identified localized areas of ground water, or hot spots, in the GRUB disposal area. The PRP proposed to address them by drilling three wells to pump the ground water and discharge it into the headwaters of the plant’s wastewater treatment system. There, the contaminated ground water would be biologically treated. The EPA approved the recovery system in December 2011. In 2012, the PRP built the system and began operating it.

The PRP performed the OU-2 cleanup from 1991 to 1992. This included digging up, incinerating and solidifying about 10,000 cubic yards of contaminated source wastes. The PRP then placed the solidified materials on site and regraded and seeded these areas with grass.

The EPA deleted a cleaned-up part of the site from the NPL in 1998.

The site’s fifth Five-Year Review, completed in 2011, found that the OU-1 and OU-2 cleanups continue to protect people from site-related contamination in the short term. However, to be protective in the future, there was a need for additional work, including institutional controls.

Summaries of cleanup activities are also available in Five-Year Reviews online.

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Enforcement Activities

The EPA negotiated legal agreements with the site PRP to investigate and clean up the site. The PRP continues to fund site cleanup, monitoring and oversight activities.

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Community Involvement

The EPA has worked with the community and its state partner to develop a long-term cleanup plan for the site, reflecting the Agency’s commitment to safe, healthy communities and environmental protection. Community engagement and public outreach are core components of EPA program activities.

The EPA has conducted a range of community involvement activities to solicit community input and to make sure the public remains informed about site activities throughout the cleanup process. Outreach activities have included public notices, interviews, and public meetings on cleanup activities and updates.

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Future Work

Operation of the GRUB ground water recovery system is ongoing. Semi-annual ground water monitoring continues as part of the OU-1 ground water contamination cleanup.

The site PRP has proposed additional characterization of ground water beneath inactive areas of the plant.

The EPA completed the last Five-Year Review in 2011. The EPA plans to complete the next Five-Year Review in 2016. 

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Additional Information

The EPA keeps additional site documents and information in a site information repository at the location below. The EPA also posts site documents, when available, on EPA’s CERCLIS Site Profile page. For documents not available on the website, please contact the Region 4 Freedom of Information Office.

Site Repository

Cleveland County Memorial Library
104 Howie Drive
Shelby, NC 28150

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