The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and CTS Corp., a manufacturer of sensors and electronic components, have been at odds over one of the company’s Superfund sites that’s been seeping pollutants into the surrounding Asheville, NC, area for years. They might be headed for a lengthy legal battle, though, after a public meeting to address and discuss what the EPA will mandate for environmental remediation efforts found many people are in favor of a more complete project than what the company already has planned, according to the Citizen-Times.com.
Craig Zeller, the EPA’s project manager for CTS of Asheville, said that the current proposal the company has for cleaning up the contaminated site doesn’t go far enough. One of his main points of contention is combating the source of the harmful carcinogen trichloroethylene (TCE), which is currently present in the groundwater table.
“How much do we want to kick over this apple cart right now and start throwing apples or are we going to take what we can get and fight the battle later?” Zeller asked the audience of about 60 people at a public comment session on CTS cleanup. “That’s the calculus that’s going through our head right now.”
The EPA announced in a press release at the end of October that they would be extending the public comment period, which was supposed to end at that time, for the proposed cleanup efforts through November 29. The CTS proposal in place only addresses a one-acre area, but Zeller, the EPA, and local residents believe the project should be expanded at least to cover the 2.5-acre area many believe the contaminants have spread across.
While the EPA can’t exactly force them to change their plan, per se, they do have at least one potentially powerful tool at their disposal. If the EPA decides the CTS plan is not sufficient and approves the use of internal funding to utilize there, they could eventually secure treble damages from the company.
Treble damages is a legal term that basically means CTS would end up having to pay them back three times whatever it cost the agency to do the work for being uncooperative. Naturally, this wouldn’t go down without a potentially long and drawn-out legal battle.
“Part of the calculus we’re going through is that if I lawyer up and decide that I’m going to force feed somebody a two-acre thermal treatment remedy, I’d better have some money to back it up,” Zeller said. “Or what I’m going to do is do this community a huge disservice and I just picked a fight with a bunch of lawyers and I don’t have any money to do it.”
The EPA will decide what they plan to do at the end of the public comment period at the end of the month.