From brownfield to ballfields

Views of the majestic Blue Ridge Mountains surrounding Asheville are one of the many draws to a planned recreation park in West Asheville. (© iStock)

This month SELC, representing MountainTrue, resolved the challenge to a brownfields redevelopment plan for a recreation park on the site of a former industrial landfill and waste lagoons in West Asheville. Plans for the park center around the construction of numerous ball fields, trails, and related amenities, which are expected to draw large crowds of visitors.

Yet, when plans were announced, many were wary of drawing large crowds to a spot known for decades as a polluted waste dump. EPA records show that for 77 years up to 30 tons of waste per day were landfilled at the 41-acre site. Details about the contamination were scarce in the brownfields agreement, so SELC and our partner pushed for further disclosure and testing of soil, sediment, and streams to help guide redevelopment. These efforts led, for example, to the discovery of PCB-contaminated soil in a former waste lagoon beside Hominy Creek, in an area planned for use as a greenway. Access to this area will now be restricted, and the greenway corridor will be re-routed.

"Everybody wants kids to have access to great recreation parks; but we also want them to be safe. With the improvements in this settlement, we aim to have both,” said D.J. Gerken, Managing Attorney in SELC’s Asheville office. “Meanwhile, we will continue our investigation to make sure BASF remedies historic contamination of this site and Hominy Creek."

The settlement reached with the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality confirms an earlier agreement reached between MountainTrue and the developer to fence off areas with contaminated soil and water and to cover additional recreation areas with more clean soil than originally planned so visitors are not exposed to historic contamination at the site.

For decades, the site served as an industrial waste dump for synthetic fabric producer American Enka, which bought the property in 1928. The facility, later operated by BASF, manufactured rayon and nylon there, processes that generated significant quantities of toxic waste. Additionally, the energy-intensive fabrication was fueled by coal and the resulting toxin-laden coal ash was stored on site.

With this agreement, developers are able to move forward with their plan to redevelop the blighted area as a recreational amenity. 

For more details on the recent developments and the history of the site, read the Asheville Citizen-Times’ feature article on the redevelopment plans.

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