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Mud Creek dump may reach homes, city says

Yellow cross-hatched areas identify parts of Mud Creek dump where debris has been found. Yellow cross-hatched areas identify parts of Mud Creek dump where debris has been found.

The city of Hendersonville has notified 11 private property owners that a long-abandoned landfill near Green Meadows could encroach on their land.
The city will hold a drop-in meeting next week during which residents can ask questions about the old Mud Creek dump, a site of eight acres or more that was used for solid waste before the early 1970s. The meeting is from 6:30 to 8 p.m. at the City Operations Center.
At least two in-depth studies have attempted to define the boundaries of the old dumps and to find out exactly what’s buried in them but they’ve never been cleaned up. The area is mostly woods and thick underbrush and until recently uninhabited. Now there are lots of people around the old dump because it’s close to the popular Oklawaha Greenway.
City officials have known about the old landfill since the early 1970s but there has been disagreement about whether cleaning it up was worth it. When the Hendersonville Housing Authority was building the Green Meadows neighborhood, officials considered grading and compacting the site, covering it with two feet of dirt and turning it into a park.
Three years ago, when the city was running a new sewer line along Mud Creek, contractors discovered buried material beyond the previously identified boundaries of the dump, said City Manager John Connet. That triggered a fresh look at the problem, which has now stretched into a three-year grind involving an environmental consultant that is under contract with the city but gets guidance from the state Pre-Regulatory Landfill Program, a part of the Department of Environmental Quality. The state reimburses costs associated with delineating and cleaning up the Mud Creek dump through the Pre-Regulatory Landfill Program.
City attorney Sam Fritschner has worked out agreements with the potentially affected property owners to allow soil boring and vapor testing to find out what, if anything, is underground. So far, no hazardous waste or harmful vapors have been identified.
“As we have moved up the hill, those were the sites that were identified as potential locations of landfill matter,” Connet said. “Most of it as we understand it is in the area near the greenway. There was never an exact boundary” of the landfill. “We are once and for all trying to determine where it is, what it is, and are there any potential issues of concern from a public safety and public health issue. At this time, we have no indication that there is any public safety and public health issue. We’re trying to get to the bottom of it once and for all.”
Even though the dump has been studied off and on for seven years, the city and state still don’t know the extent of it. That study is under way now, through a Charlotte-based contractor that has broad experience in hazardous waste cleanups and landfill closures. It’s not been decided yet whether to try to excavate the contents of the dump.
The 39-acre site was part of the 80-acre Northeast Urban Renewal Project, which involved the demolition of dilapidated housing and clearing of land for Green Meadows in the early 1970s. Officials knew about the dump then and even tried to get help from the TVA to clean it up.
“Our budget does cover the cost of clearing the sites but in no way does it cover the high cost of clearing and filling the dump areas,” Executive Director Ruth G. Last wrote on Jan. 11, 1972. She appealed for help on the grounds that the dump was a “breeding grounds for rodents” and impossible to police even with signs prohibiting dumping. Removing the dump “would make life far more livable for the project residents. … We are obligated to find some way of accomplishing the necessary clearance, compaction and grading of these dump areas as quickly and economically as possible.”
But Marshall Staton, the city’s director of sanitary engineering, said at the time that removing the waste would worse than doing nothing.
“This area has been used for many years and there is a large concentration of municipal solid waste that would create a major problem if it were attempted to remove it from the site,” Staton said. The most economical way to convert the land into a park or playground would be to grade it and cover it with two feet of compacted dirt, he said. “This method has been used in many areas of the state and it does provide excellent facilities for park and playground purposes.”
There are no drinking water wells on the site. At least 29 structures, including duplexes, single-family homes and a daycare center, were a part of the study site. The site is bounded by thick woods and underbrush on the north and south, Mud Creek on the east and Lincoln Circle on the west.
“These were in municipalities all over North Carolina,” Connet said. “Our particular city dump was on a list in this group.” The Mud Creek dump site didn’t get much attention because “they deal with the ones that are the greatest public health risk first.”

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The public drop-in meeting on the Mud Creek dump is 6:30 to 8 p.m. Tuesday at the City Operations Center on Williams Street.