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Ecusta Mill

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Ecusta Mills before (2008)
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Additional Resources
Site Summary Profile
EPA ID: NCD003166675
Location: Pisgah Forest, Transylvania County, North Carolina
Lat/Long: 35.26373, -082.674922
Congressional District: 11
NPL Status: Superfund Alternative Approach
Affected Media: Ground water, Soil, Sediment
Cleanup Status: Cleanup actions are complete
Human Exposure Under Control: NA
Groundwater Migration Under Control: NA
Sitewide Ready for Anticipated Use: NA
Site Reuse/Redevelopment: Planned mixed-use development
Site Manager: Jennifer Wendel (wendel.jennifer@epa.gov)


Current Site Status

The Ecusta Mill site includes an area where a pulp and paper manufacturing facility operated from 1939 to 2002. EPA did not list the site on the National Priorities List (NPL) but considers it an NPL-caliber site and is addressing the site through the Superfund Alternative Approach because of contaminated ground water and soil resulting from facility operations. EPA, the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (NCDENR), a redevelopment company and a former owner/operator have investigated site conditions and taken steps to clean up the site in order to protect people and the environment from contamination. Between 2008 and 2011, EPA authorized a series of short-term cleanups, also called removal actions, to address site-related threats. Site contamination does not currently threaten people living and working near the site. By monitoring the site and enforcing institutional controls, parties continue to protect people and the environment from site contamination.

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Site Location and Background

The 527-acre site is located near the merging point of the Davidson and French Broad Rivers in the Pisgah Forest near Brevard, North Carolina. The site includes a former pulping and paper manufacturing facility, which operated from 1939 to 2002. The site also includes industrial solid waste landfills, an aerated stabilization basin formerly used for wastewater treatment, and portions of the Davidson and French Broad Rivers next to the site. In addition to pulp and papermaking operations, operators also used the site for chlorine production, caustic storage, water and wastewater treatment, and printing. Operators also produced cellophane at the site for 30 years. Site surroundings include commercial and residential areas.

EPA became involved at the site in 2003 after the plant closed, because of a threat of uncontrolled releases if operators shut the plant’s environmental systems down. In 2004, EPA and NCDENR inspected the site.

In January 2008, a redevelopment company purchased the site property with the intention of demolishing all on-site buildings and preparing the site for a mixed-use development. EPA and NCDENR negotiated agreements with the company and one past owner/operator to cover needed environmental investigations and cleanup activities. The redevelopment company has since demolished all on-site buildings; however, the site remains unused.

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Threats and Contaminants

Site investigations identified contamination in ground water and soil that could potentially harm people in the area. Initially, EPA was also concerned about potential sediment contamination. Following further investigation, EPA determined contamination in sediments was not a threat.

Ground water and soil contamination resulted from past facility operations. Contaminants of concern include mercury, arsenic, high pH levels and chlorinated solvents.

Ground water contamination is contained within the site boundary. EPA previously treated chlorinated solvents. Under the oversight of NCDENR, the redevelopment company is implementing natural attenuation of ground water and institutional controls to restrict ground water use.

EPA does not consider vapor intrusion to be a threat to people living or working near the site.

Clean up actions addressed all soil-related threats. Soil cleanup actions permit residential use of the site, with the exception of two parcels. These two parcels have institutional controls in place that restrict development activities.

EPA considered children’s health issues as part of the risk assessment for the River Areas portion of the site.

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Investigation and Cleanup Responsibility / Oversight

A redevelopment company and former owner/operator conducted most site investigation and cleanup activities, with oversight provided by EPA and NCDENR.

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Site Cleanup Plan

Site investigations and cleanup activities have focused on two areas, which EPA refers to as operable units, or OUs. These areas include OU-1: Redevelopment Area; and OU-2: River Areas.

EPA used a combination of Superfund removal and Superfund Alternative Approach site investigation and cleanup strategies, as well as current State of North Carolina permit requirements, to address site threats and support redevelopment. The Superfund Alternative Approach uses the same investigation and cleanup processes and standards used for sites listed on the NPL.

EPA authorized a series of removal actions – short-term cleanups – to address threats for OU-1. See “Cleanup Progress” below.

In 2009, EPA issued a cleanup plan (a Record of Decision, or ROD) for OU-2, in which EPA determined it would not be necessary to require parties to undertake cleanup actions. To help inform its decision, prior to issuing the ROD, EPA supported the development of an innovative sediment stability study, referred to as the Watershed Assessment of River Stability and Sediment Supply, through an EPA grant.

Record of Decision, Operable Unit 2, River Investigation Area (107 pp, 13.98MB, About PDF)

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Cleanup Progress

Parties conducted a series of removal actions between 2008 and 2011 to address OU-1. Removal activities included:

EPA OSC.net provides more information about the removal activities. Exit Disclaimer

Parties are now conducting long-term site monitoring for the EC Building Area and area ground water.

In May 2008, an unknown material entered a storm drain on site through a compromised portion of a process sewer. Approximately 3,100 gallons of material flowed into a drainage ditch; a portion of this entered the Davidson River. The release may have resulted in a significant fish kill over the half-mile reach of the Davidson River between the release point and the river’s merging point with the French Broad River. Parties have stopped the release at the source and within the drainage ditch.

EPA OSC.net provides more information about the Ecusta Mill Davidson River Release activities. Exit Disclaimer

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Enforcement Activities

EPA and NCDENR negotiated legal agreements with the redevelopment company as well as with one past owner/operator to investigate and clean up the site. The redevelopment company continues to fund site monitoring and oversight activities, under a series of Remedial Action Plans selected by NCDENR and a brownfields agreement negotiated with NCDENR.

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Community Involvement

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.

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 and public meetings.

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Future Work

Long-term monitoring of the site is ongoing.

Five-Year Reviews are not required for the site.

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Additional Information

EPA keeps additional site documents and information in a site information repository at the location below. 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

Transylvania County Public Library
212 South Gaston Street
Brevard, NC  28712

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