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EPA to conduct assessment at Chapel Hill N.C. police department

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will conduct a preliminary assessment (PA) within the next year at the site of Chapel Hill’s police headquarters where coal ash was discovered in 2013. The site is at 828 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. Coal, ash and construction debris is buried and exposed on the property.

The EPA released a statement last week supporting the petition from the Center for Biological Diversity, saying the request met federal requirements for a PA.

In their petition response, the EPA details what’s included in a PA, which will “determine whether a site poses a threat to human health or the environment and whether the threat requires further investigation.” The PA will include a site visit and a review of existing information and documents related to the property and the presence of CCRs there.

“We welcome this EPA assessment, as it will help us make well-informed decisions. Since we found CCRs at the site in 2013, we have worked with numerous partners to gather information and consider options, with the health and safety of our employees and community first and foremost in our minds,” said town manager Chris Blue, confirming the town will “continue to seek out the best, most up-to-date scientific information to inform decision-making about the future of the site.”

The town is currently working to move the police department to the Parkline at 1830 Fordham Boulevard.

Late last year, the EPA issued a draft risk assessment about the effects of coal ash residuals (CCRs), indicating a higher cancer risks associated with coal ash, specifically at electric power plant sites that have CCRs present.

Town staff and consultants are reviewing the document, along with partners at the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (NCDEQ).

“While the EPA draft report looked at the lingering effects of CCRs at power plants, we are working with our partners to consider what this means for our site,” said John Richardson, the town’s community sustainability manager. “The regulatory issues at hand are complex, but our priorities are straightforward – the health and safety of our community and our Town staff.”

The Town is actively collaborating with NCDEQ on a Brownfields agreement that will stipulate what uses will be allowed on the property, as well as additional remediation and ongoing monitoring requirements.   The Town has asked NCDEQ to consider allowing a range of non-residential uses, however they are not requesting consideration for housing of any kind.

Once the Town receives the final draft agreement from NCDEQ, there is a required 30-day public comment period. In addition to that, the Town will host one or more public meetings. The Town expects to have that draft agreement this spring unless new information or action from the EPA or NCDEQ affects that timeline.

To find out more information about the 828 site, including all related Town documents and reports, visit the town’s website.

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