Belhaven to pay its share of Superfund cleanup

Published 9:42 pm Friday, January 4, 2008

By Staff
Electric transformers contained PCBs
Special to the Daily News
BELHAVEN — Belhaven officials agreed Wednesday to pay $20,000 to settle liability issues regarding the repair and disposal of PCB-contaminated electrical transformers decades ago.
Mayor Adam O’Neal said Belhaven may have done business with Carolina Transformer Company in the past. According to an EPA clean-up site summary, PCB fluids were drained from transformers and not properly stored and managed at the CTC site in Fayetteville. Soil and groundwater became contaminated with polycholorinated biphenylls.
In the normal course of the operation of Belhaven’s electric utility between 1959 and 1986, some of the 600 or so pole-mounted transformers would have had to be disposed of or repaired, according to a memorandum from Guinn Leverett, Belhaven’s interim town manager. A $10 credit balance for the town of Belhaven as of Dec. 31, 1977, is shown on the books of CTC.
According to the EPA Web site, “A Superfund site is any land in the United States that has been contaminated by hazardous waste and identified by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as a candidate for cleanup because it poses a risk to human health and/or the environment.
Superfund was created in 1980 when Congress enacted the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA). The law created a tax on the chemical and petroleum industries and allowed the federal government to respond to releases or potential releases of hazardous wastes that might harm people or the environment. The tax went to a trust fund for cleaning up abandoned or uncontrolled hazardous waste sites.
There are 31 sites listed on the Superfund national priority list in North Carolina, according to the Web site.
The deadline to join the settlement group and pay the $20,000 is today. After that, the town could have been sued by the consortium of companies that have already paid.
According the Leverett’s memo, “That probability is very difficult to calculate. The EPA has already claimed that all the users of the site are jointly and severally liable for the cost of cleanup. If we are sued, we have no defense, really, because we can’t prove that we didn’t use the site.”
All soil clean-up activities involving CTC were completed in 2003.
PCBs have been found to be carcinogenic in humans by the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services and the National Cancer Institute.
The cost of the cleanup, according to Leverett, was $31 million; 39 cities are involved in the settlement at this point, of 214 that may have used CTC. Belhaven has been assessed $20,000.
The council voted 3-1 to pay the $20,000. Voting for the motion were Nelson Guy, Mac Pigott and Steve Carawan. Robert Stanley voted no, and asked if the amount could be reduced if more cities joined the group.