The Truth About the Aberdeen School Site

I completely agree with The Pilot that the particular “forces of disinformation” they referenced on June 12 are “despicable” and that those despicable forces are shallow, transparent liars. However, I want to correct the record about the Aberdeen school site.

I believe the current Board of Education is the best caliber board we’ve had in the 25+ years I’ve lived in Moore County. They are smart, hard working and of the highest integrity. I have no doubt whatsoever that they have the best interests of our schools, our kids and our county at the forefront of the decisions being made. That being said, there are still some issues about the site that concern me and some of the reporting by The Pilot was misleading.

I am not a scientist, a chemist or a geologist. But unfortunately for me, I have more experience with groundwater contamination than I wish. Because of the nature of the business I spent 30 years in, I know a bit about 2L Standards, groundwater monitoring  and how Phase I and Phase II Site Assessments are conducted.

I’ve spent weeks studying the information about the Aberdeen school site contained on the EPA Superfund website, and in the EPA Third Five-Year Review Report and the Phase I Site Assessment submitted by Building & Earth. These documents make clear that two parts (called Operational Units) of the Aberdeen Pesticide Dump Site are NOT “protective of human health and the environment” under the proposed use. They are the groundwater across the entire site (OU3) and the McIver Dump Site (OU5).

It’s a complicated problem and not many people are willing to read the 247 pages of the B&E report, the 264 pages of the latest EPA report plus the numerous supporting documents available on the EPA site and from other sources. Many people who do read them don’t really understand the details and don’t read the “fine print.”

The central issue is well hidden and requires some forward thinking. There are short-term standards and long-term standards. There are so-called Condition-1 standards and Condition-2 standards. However we are surely in this for the long term. On page 24 of the Third Five-Year Review Report you have to read the entire statement. The easy read for the groundwater (OU3) does say “Short-term Protective” so I can understand being confused. But when you read the details it says “because no human or ecological exposure pathways exist to contaminated groundwater in the short term.” Building a school in the proximity is a crystal clear change in that status. The document goes on to say about the McIver Site (OU5) specifically, “However, in order for the remedy to be protective in the long term, the following action needs to be taken: change the cleanup level for delta-BHC to a level that is protective of human health.”

Delta-BHC is a likely carcinogen with little or no human data (EPA group 2B) to evaluate exactly how dangerous it is. It is one of the by-products of Lindane, which is the pesticide that was manufactured at the Superfund site a mile away.

On page 5 of the 2017 Annual Operating Report for the McIver Site cleanup, we can read “that the beta-BHC performance standard was exceeded in groundwater at three wells” and the “alpha-BHC performance standard was exceeded at one well.” Equally disturbing is that those three wells are showing “upward trends” some of them substantial, in one or more of the “Contaminants of Concern” (from 2014 to 2017).

Moore County Schools paid $180,000 for 20 acres ($9,000 per acre) on NC-5 to build the new school. That’s a good deal but nothing special. It’s a good location in a high traffic area with no neighborhoods within walking distance. Finding 20 suitable acres in southern Moore County is no easy task. But because they chose this one, close to a mile from a Superfund Site and a half mile from a couple of EPA regulated sites, knowing everything possible about the land is a requirement. If this transaction was being financed by a traditional bank, I would almost guarantee that they would be required to do a Phase II Site Assessment. In the end, the risks outweigh the rewards and everyone involved deserves to know for certain. The only way to do that is to drill monitoring wells and test the soil and groundwater. On a $30+ million project another $30,000 has to be found.