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Toxic waste back on county's radar

News-Topic - 8/22/2017

Aug. 22--Almost 20 years late, an environmental study will be done to determine the next steps in cleanup efforts on a toxic waste site.

The Caldwell County Board of Commissioners voted Monday to hire the Charlotte environmental consulting firm Hart & Hickman PC to compile a history of the Caldwell System Inc. site, lay out options for remediation and set a schedule what needs to be done.

The study was required by a 1997 federal consent decree stemming from a court case brought by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, but County Manager Stan Kiser said the study slipped through the cracks.

See Site/Page A6

"The EPA thought the state would take the lead, the state thought the EPA would take the lead," he said, "so unfortunately it went undone."

The study, which will cost the county about $20,000, is to address groundwater contamination from the site, which was a toxic waste incinerator for over 20 years, disposing of waste such as torpedo fuel for the U.S. Navy and toxic waste from three Environmental Protection Agency cleanup sites. Workers at the site had brain damage, chemical burns and more ailments from the toxins.

The contaminated groundwater can be cleaned or simply monitored if no one is being exposed to it, according to the Hart & Hickman proposal. The study will determine what is needed, but the consulting firm predicts the site will only need to be monitored.

In other business, the commissioners voted to buy the old Grace Chapel fire station at 4470 Grace Chapel Road. The Grace Chapel Fire Department will sell it to the county for $150,000, half the appraised price, Chief Brian Edwards said.

The county will renovate the building and make it a base for an ambulance and two paramedics at a time, as well as extra EMS equipment.

Edwards said the area needs more ambulances, especially with the Mill Pond bridge on Falls Avenue being rebuilt.

The board also accepted $240,000 in state funds, announced when legislators passed the state budget in June, to buy Powerlift Stretchers, which lift stretchers into ambulances, and six Lucas CPR Devices, which automate CPR, five more than originally budgeted for. Both devices take strain off emergency workers.

Reporter Virginia Annable can be reached at 828-610-8724.

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