Biden Administration Funds Cleanup of Five Contaminated Sites in North Carolina

Graphic by Francesca Daly for Cardinal & Pine

By Keya Vakil

February 15, 2023

Superfund sites are locations that have been contaminated due to hazardous waste being dumped, left out in the open, or otherwise improperly managed, including in manufacturing facilities, processing plants, landfills, and mining sites.

The site of a former knit fabric mill about 30 miles outside of Durham is one of 22 sites across the country set to receive some much needed investment for cleanup.

The Biden administration this week announced a second round of funding for Superfund cleanups, with the Cristex Drum site in Oxford, North Carolina chosen as one of the projects that will benefit from $1 billion in federal funding. The money comes from President Biden’s infrastructure law that passed in 2021.

Superfund sites are locations that have been contaminated due to hazardous waste being dumped, left out in the open, or otherwise improperly managed, including in manufacturing facilities, processing plants, landfills, and mining sites.

Cleanups of these sites address potential environmental and health issues in the surrounding communities while also creating jobs.

The Cristex Drum site was previously home to a textile plant where a certain kind of nylon fabrics—nylon acetate Tricots—were knitted, dyed, and finished between 1968 and 1986, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The dyeing process used metals and Chlorinated solvents that seeped out into an on-site lagoon, and then into the city’s sewer system.

Tetrachloroethene is the primary contaminant at the Oxford site and the EPA has classified the colorless, odorless chemical as a likely carcinogen. Studies have found that exposure to tetrachloroethene for prolonged periods of time can lead to a higher risk of bladder cancer, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, and multiple myeloma. 

The former Cristex building has been vacant since 2015 and partial clean-up has been going on since the late 90s, but contaminants remain in the soil and groundwater.

“Every person deserves to live in a community that is free from harmful pollutants, and this critical federal funding will help accelerate the EPA’s work and tackle toxic threats to public health and the environment,” said Congresswoman Valerie Foushee, whose district includes Oxford.

According to the EPA’s release, the funds will be used to demolish the building and foundation which contain asbestos, excavate and dispose of contaminated soils, and treat groundwater that is contaminated. The cleanup is expected to restore the site and prevent the contaminants from migrating to other areas.

Biden Administration Funds Cleanup of Five Contaminated Sites in North Carolina

Gov. Roy Cooper also praised the announcement. 

“A clean and healthy environment is critical for families to grow and thrive,” Cooper said. “Thanks to the Biden-Harris Administration and the EPA, this investment will help protect underserved communities in Oxford.”

Four other sites in North Carolina were chosen to receive funding in December 2021 and clean-up at those sites—in Charlotte, Gastonia, Yadkinville, and Jacksonville—are set to begin in the coming weeks and months.

Author

  • Keya Vakil

    Keya Vakil is the deputy political editor at COURIER. He previously worked as a researcher in the film industry and dabbled in the political world.

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