Stefan Klakovitch, with the group Friends of Bolin Creek, came before the Chapel Hill Town Council on Wednesday to ask the town to take action to clean up a coal ash dump recently discovered under the Chapel Hill Police Department Headquarters adjacent to Bolin Creek.
“As with many other landfills in the State of North Carolina, this landfill is totally unregulated, unlined, and contains known hazardous substances including heavy metals that have leached out into the environment and will continue to do so until the dump is removed,” said Klakovitch.
The site was used as a dumping ground for coal ash in the 1960s and 70s, before the town purchased it in 1980 to build the police station at 828 Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard.
An engineering consultant hired by the town last year reported high levels of arsenic, barium, chromium and lead in groundwater samples from one of two testing wells, as well as elevated levels of barium in soil samples across the site.
The Friends of Bolin Creek say they are concerned that the town is not currently planning to clean up the coal ash dump and they worry contaminants will leach in to the creek if the dump remains in place.
But in a letter to the Town Council, officials from the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) say the recent findings have been misconstrued.
They say there’s no evidence contamination has spread to the surface waters of the creek and called for repeated sampling to confirm if heavy metals have in fact leached into the groundwater.
The town will be required to submit a remediation plan to the state once the investigation is complete, but Klakovitch and others question DENR’s approach, saying the regulatory agency has lost credibility following the Dan River Coal Ash spill in February.
“We need to do more than just what will merely satisfy DENR, whose reputation on coal ash has been discredited on a national level,” said Klakovitch.
Still, town staffers stress the investigation has just begun, arguing it is too soon to determine what should be done with the site. In the meantime, the town has installed silt fencing above Bolin Creek to keep the coal ash out the water and security fencing to keep out the public.
DENR officials will provide recommendations to the council when review of the latest round of testing is complete.