Trichloroethylene (TCE) is a clear, non-flammable solvent with a sweet smell that is commonly used as an industrial solvent for cleaning electronic components. This chemical was widely used by CTS of Asheville at the Mills Gap Road facility in south Asheville until the plant closed in 1986. The company did not properly contain and/or dispose of the cancer causing chemical and now much of the drinkable ground water in the communities surrounding the facility are dangerously polluted.
In 1999, one family that lived near the CTS site noticed a foul-smelling oily substance in the spring that supplied their drinking water. EPA testing of that water showed that it contained 21,000 parts per billion (ppb) of tri-chloroethylene. That level of contamination is 4,200 times the EPA allowable limit for drinking water. Two members of that family suffer from brain tumors they believe were caused by their exposure to TCE.
Recent water testing in the area indicates that the TCE contamination is increasing and spreading. One Mills Gap Road property owner's water had 21,000 ppb of TCE in 1999, but now her water has a TCE level of 35,000 ppb. From an environmental standpoint, that is a huge increase.
The EPA has ordered CTS of Asheville to clean-up the site, but so far all they have done is install a TCE soil-vapor extracting device in the most contaminated section of the property. The residents of this area are justifiably concerned about their health and their property values, but the local government has done little to support them. As a result, some residents are considering taking legal action.