DOLE DEMANDS ANSWERS FROM EPA ON MILLS GAP GROUNDWATER
U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole wrote yesterday to Stephen L. Johnson, the head of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), demanding that the EPA answer for why it has failed to resolve longstanding concerns about the quality of drinking water in the Mills Gap area of Buncombe County.
The North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (NCDENR) and the EPA have long recognized the presence of dangerous amounts of trichloroethylene (TCE), an industrial solvent that causes harmful health effects, at the 57 acre Mills Gap site in Buncombe County. On April 4, 2002, the EPA issued an Administrative Order of Enforcement that called for the removal of all contaminants on the Mills Gap Site, stating that such removal is "time-critical." Since then, the EPA has not acted to enforce the order.
"The EPA's response to date is unacceptable," said Dole. "There have been far too many delays and habitually poor communication with affected residents. It is long past time for a proper and speedy removal of contaminants on the site."
Last year, Dole introduced legislation with Sen. Hillary Clinton to require the EPA to establish a health advisory for TCE and a National Primary Drinking Water Regulation, which is a legally enforceable public water system standard, to limit TCE levels. The bill also would require EPA to prepare an Integrated Risk Information System (IRIS) inhalation reference concentration (RfC) for TCE vapor exposure. IRIS is an electronic database containing information on human health effects that may result from exposure to various chemicals in the environment, and an RfC would provide an estimate of how much TCE vapor exposure would create an appreciable risk for harmful effects. This legislation was approved by the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works on July 31, 2008, and is now awaiting consideration by the full Senate.