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Residents eager for answers on Mud Creek dump

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Green Meadows residents left an information meeting Tuesday night saying they’re eager to get more information on whether an abandoned dump near their homes poses a health threat.
The city and its environmental consulting firm hosted a drop-in information meeting to give residents a chance to ask questions about the so-called Mud Creek dumps, which operated without environmental regulations before the early 1970s. Tests so far have turned up no hazardous materials or vapors. The residents had plenty of questions but the city won't have complete and final answers until July, when a contractor is expected to complete a report on the extent of the long-abandoned dump and whether what's buried there poses any health or environmental threat. Once that's done, the city and state will determine the next steps.

An information sheet issued joinly by the city’s contractor, Hart & Hickman, the N.C. DEQ and the city, described the process of identifying the landfill and assessing the health threat.
“The city knew of the old landfill but based upon its location in a primarily uninhabited area of along Mud Creek no environmental assessment had been conducted,” the statement said. “This is very common for old, closed municipal waste landfills in North Carolina.”
The state DEQ first identified the site in 2007 but didn’t require any mediation because the state program addresses “sites with the highest public health risk first.”
In the summer of 2016, Hart & Hickman reported that on the southern part of the old dump buried waste is limited to the William H. King Memorial Park and does not extend to private properties. In testing this spring, the consultants confirmed that buried waste extends “beneath a limited number of private properties” on Martin Circle and Lincoln Circle. Landfill gas probes showed no significant levels of landfill gasses underground. The consultant also expects to test groundwater quality and test for vapor intrusion into existing structures. It will evaluate remediation where any risks to health and the environment are identified, the information sheet said.
Green Meadows residents who came to the information meeting said they hoped to learn more about the threat and see the city and state react if anything harmful is found.
“I hope if the land is contaminated they will fix it,” said Melody Rudisill. “I hope they’ll be honest about what’s going on and I hope they will tell us any repercussions that people might have that have lived down there for years. As a neighborhood I feel like we have a right to know.”
“When urban renewal came through there they tore all of that down," she said. "They had to have known about it.”

Housing Authority officials did know about the dump in the early 1970s. As the Hendersonville Lightning reported last week, Housing Authority officials sought help from a federal agency in 1972 to clean up the old dump but nothing was done.

The Rev. Billy Waters, minister of Union Grove Baptist Church, the Green Meadows neighborhood church, said he has seen discolored water seep from the ground in heavy rains.
“It’s got orange in it,” said the Rev. Billy Waters. “You can see something bubbling. Then when you walk on the trail when it has rained, the muck coming out of Mud Creek, you talk about something slick. Everybody uses the walking trail, not just the Green Meadows community. We’re just waiting to hear what the report says as to contamination and how it’s going to affect residents of Green Meadows.”

The Mud Creek dump comes under the Pre-Regulatory Landfill Program, a part of the state’s waste management division in the Department of Environmental Equality. The program aims to identify, assess and clean up old city landfills and dumps established before 1983, when most state waste disposal regulations were enacted. The state has identified 675 eligible dumps.
The Hart & Hickman report will determine “the extent of contamination making its way from waste at the Mud Creek dump into water, soil and air,” the DEQ and city said. “If officials determine that waste contamination is causing an imminent health threat, the state would act quickly to mitigate the risks.”
Councilman Jerry Smith said he is confident that the city has done everything it can so far to assess the problem.
“I learned a lot, I’ll say that,” he said of his conversation with a state DEQ official. “She was very open and answered all my questions. What I learned from her is that we as a city from what she said have been very pro-active in trying to remedy this situation.
“She said that they’re in the midst of doing a lot of testing. Before they can do remediation they have to come back and determine what kind of problems exist if any."

The only thing the city could do to speed up the process, the state official told Smith, would be to hire more consultants to do more testing faster.

"Basically, what I got out of her was … she thought our timeline was actually really good," said Smith, who was the only council member to attend the drop-in event.

“An interesting thing I learned as well is the goal the state has is not to dig things up," he said. "It is to find out if there is a danger. If we’re talking about refuse, the goal is to do some type of remediation on the surface that would prevent any of that stuff from rising to the top. She said anytime you’re looking at something like this you’re looking at a lot of square yards of dirt. The biggest concern is the areas that are right on the back of people’s properties. She said they had a site in Fairview in 2009 and it’s only two acres and they’re still not finished with it. I really pressed her hard on what the city could do and apparently we’ve done everything we could have done.

"If there's something we can do to speed this process up I will definitely be in favor of doing that. She said we are in the order of projects to get done. She said there are some more dangerous than ours, for lack of a better term. She said thus far all the preliminary tests have found that there are no toxicity issues around any of these. They have to do the in-depth testing.”
City Manager John Connet said he hoped residents came away from the information meeting with the understanding that “the city and the state are being pro-active to make sure there’s no health issues.”