Pesticide contaminants found in subdivision

The Haywood County Health Department has asked for state assistance to conduct tests in two subdivisions after soil samples from a vacant lot tested positive for lead, arsenic and other pesticides similar to those detected in Barber Orchard, which was declared a Superfund site.

Residents in the Tan Woods and Orchard Estates Subdivisions off U.S. 276 south of Waynesville,, formerly Francis Orchard, were notified May 12 about the discovery. They were asked to give their consent for the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources to take water and soil samples on their properties. Other property owners are being contacted by letter this week.

There are 14 homes in the 25-lot subdivisions and another home is under construction. DENR representatives are expected to be in Haywood County this week to conduct the testing.

Carmine Rocco, director of the Haywood County Health Department, said the contamination was discovered when a prospective buyer had soil samples taken on the vacant lot. While it appears that the contaminants found on the lot are comparable to those found in Barber Orchard in 1999, Rocco said it was too early to tell whether the amount of contamination is comparable.

“These contaminates may have come from past pesticide applications when the property was still an apple orchard,” Rocco said. “However, we don’t know at this point if it is an isolated hot spot or more widespread. That is why we believe that well water sampling and more soil sampling is needed in this area.”

Trace amounts of contaminants in the soil at Barbers Orchard, a subdivision in Balsam, earned that site Superfund designation from the Environmental Protection Agency. The initial clean-up removed the top layer of soil from contaminated lots with homes — about 23 in all. Soil tests revealed that 60 percent of the subdivision is contaminated, but until soil is removed from those lots, the owners cannot get building permits. The clean-up will cost $40 million and could take up to 10 years — once money is appropriated.

Test results are expected to take up to four weeks, Rocco said. Once the results are available, a meeting will be called with property owners to discuss what they indicate and any next steps that may be required.

For more information contact Rocco at 828.452.6675; or Steve Valentine, environmental health supervisor, at 828.452.6682. For specific health questions, contact Dr. Kenneth Rudo, state toxicologist, N.C. Division of Public Health, at 919.707.5911.

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