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"Time's Up" - Residents Tell EPA to Clean Up Asheville Superfund Site

Photo: Gabe Dunsmith is pictured in front of the CTS Superfund site, 10 years after being diagnosed and treated for thyroid cancer. His doctor attributed his cancer to the environment. Photo courtesy of Gabe Dunsmith.
Photo: Gabe Dunsmith is pictured in front of the CTS Superfund site, 10 years after being diagnosed and treated for thyroid cancer. His doctor attributed his cancer to the environment. Photo courtesy of Gabe Dunsmith.
June 24, 2014

MILLS GAP, N.C. - Health hazards from a Superfund site located just south of Asheville could be more serious than initially believed, as the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has not only found high levels of toxins, but also recently discovered contaminated air.

An electronics factory operated by the CTS Corporation in Mills Gap closed in 1986 after 27 years in operation, and was declared a Superfund site by the EPA two years ago. Although groundwater was initially believed to be the only thing contaminated, recent air samples have prompted the evacuation of three nearby homes. Dozens of homeowners remain, however, including Jim Formichella, who is concerned for the health of his family and the resale value of his home.

"It's extremely scary knowing there's so many different ways we can be affected by this," says Formichella. "There's health issues, property value, and a host of other things, financial and otherwise that'll affect us long-term."

Formichella and other homeowners are conducting independent air tests and meeting with the EPA to discuss a solution. Neither the EPA or CTS Corporation returned calls for comment on this story.

Lee Ann Smith lives near the CTS site, and her children played in woods near the property before she knew anything was wrong. That changed 10 years ago when her son was diagnosed with thyroid cancer at age 11. With no family history of cancer, his doctor had questions.

"My son's oncologist thought something environmental was going on because she asked if we'd ever been to Chernobyl," said Smith. "Then we started looking around and we found out about the CTS site."

A benign bone tumor was discovered in Smith's other son.

Formichella says he and other homeowners want a quick resolution to the problem and an immediate clean-up of the contamination.

"CTS, the company that did all this, is still a viable corporation," says Formichella. "They still have money, they still have resources. The saddest thing of all is we know who did it, they have the means to fix it and they're not being made to do so, which anybody else would be."

EPA representatives have said in published reports they are working with CTS to clean up the site, but homeowners are skeptical since the agency has known about the presence of toxins in the area for nearly 15 years.

Stephanie Carroll Carson, Public News Service - NC