Superfund Site

A “superfund site” is a hazardous waste site that has been placed on the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (E.P.A.) National Priority List (NPL). This is done based on a scoring process  that rates a site’s current or potential health impact. The “Superfund” was created by the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liabilities Act of 1980 to clean up abandoned hazardous waste site.

In so many words…its an area of property that contains hazardous materials…and needs to be cleaned.

Here’s some background on Reasor Chemical Company. The site is located at 5100 North College Road in Castle Hayne. There is no sign for the plant and from the road, you can’t see any buildings (or remnants of…). The property is approximately 25 acres….700ft south of Holly Shelter.

Reasor operated from 1959 to 1972 as a stump rendering facility that produced pine products. Plant products and bi-products included turpentine, resin, pine oil and other compounds. By 1969 most operations had ceased and the buildings were demolished. The land was later owned by Cameron Company. It’s completely vacant now and receives no routine maintenance.

From 1997 to 1999 the EPA conducted a Remedial Investiation (RI) where 130 samples were taken from the soil, ponds and drainage ditches. The list of hazardous substances found included volatile organic solvents, metals (arsenic, copper, lead, mercury, nickel, iron and zinc), semivolatile organic compounds and dioxins. Iron levels in the surface water samples (13,000 ug/L) exceeded the Ambient Water Quality Criteria/Ambient Aquatic Life Advisory Concentration level (wow…that’s a mouthful!).

The site became a “superfund site” in 2002. Excavation, off-site disposal of contaminated soil, on-site treatment and disposal of contaminated surface water and annual groundwater monitoring began.

Those activities finished in July of 2007. On June 24th, 2008 the EPA and then-property owners inspected the site and noted that wildlife and vegetation was returning to the area. More samples were taken and the site was given the “OK” for human exposure levels.

New Hanover County School Board says that the land was re-zoned from industrial to residential. In 2008 they purchased the land in a public session. The parents I spoke with expressed concern that they were not aware of the purchase or if any other alternative sites had been on the table. Valita Quattlebalm (NHCS) says that there WAS a public meeting back in 2008 when the issue was discussed and decided.

Holly Shelter Middle School did not just *appear*…the building is nearly finished. So why are people just finding out NOW about its proximity to the superfund site? Parents I spoke with say they were completely unaware until a Parent Teacher Association meeting last week. Apparently someone brought the issue to light after a discussion about redistricting. It sent shock waves through the meeting and has ignited concern over the site’s proximity to the school…and over what they say, is a lack of communication (some call it ‘secrecy’) by the school board.

I shared that with the school board who says that there is a lot of fictitious information being spread by people who are opposed to the redistricting. The board says that some people may be using the superfund issue (which the board says is NOT new information…) as fodder against redistricting plans.

The school board says they have done their OWN tests on the area and everything has checked out. Of note…the EPA has NOT done tests at Holly Shelter Middle School. Their tests were specific to the Reasor site. Valita wanted to make clear, “New Hanover County Schools would NOT put the children in danger.” I asked today to see those tests…she said that they are available upon request at the school board office (note that you need to pay $0.15 per copy). I was not able to get down there in time to make deadline today.

So why did the school board choose THAT site versus others? Valita says they DID consider other land but based on the roads, water supply and population growth…that specific area was deemed the best. Not every parent I spoke with seems to believe that…they say that it was purchased because once a nearby site is labeled a “superfund”…the surrounding property probably becomes less expensive. I spoke with a hazardous waste expert who confirmed that that was likely true…but I have not been able to track property values for the plots of land in that area (yet).

Valita says that the property cost $45,000 per acre…the market rate for the land. I asked how it compared to other school property they’ve purchased but to be fair…that might be comparing two different things….land in Castle Hayne won’t cost what it does in Carolina Beach, for example.

One parent expressed concern over where the school would be getting their water. On-site, you can see a new water tower that’s been installed behind the school. The school is hooked up to the Cape Fear Public Utility Authority and will not be receiving water drafted from any underground aquifers.

This issue is sure to come up tonight at the school board meeting (6:30pm, Spencer Building 15th street). Reporter Claire Simms will be there.

Of note, it’s not unheard of for land to be redeveloped on a superfund site (we have another one near the air port). Its also not unheard of for people to suffer heath consequences after hazardous compounds are discovered near a place where people live, work and play. The E.P.A. has labeled the nearby Reasor site “safe”…the NHCSB says the school site is ALSO safe…be that as it may, for a parent, there is still that concern and unease about their  child playing in an area of such close proximity.

Sharon Keane’s response to the school board’s testing was simply, ” I think if they had to go there everyday…they might feel differently.”



  1. I would love to see those test from the school board. Do you guys plan on getting those and putting them on your site? Please let me know. I really appreciate it.

    • I’ll try to get those today and post them…

      • Wow, that was a FAST reply. THANKS!!!!!

      • Here’s the deal with the report….

        Its 115 pages and will cost $20 to copy. That wont fly with the media Gods here. I will try to get down to the office to read it but honestly, I didn’t get much response on this story so I’m not sure how interested people are…..(?)

        If you hear of people who have read it or who are really interested…get in touch…

      • That’s insane, just for a copy of it. Take a small thumb drive with you, when you go to see it. hahaa

        I know… it seems like no one else is interested in this story. Maybe the news report should have said the ground water is still contaminated. That may have got more peoples attention. They also should have mentioned the other contamination problems across the street. In the Blossom Ferry neighborhood.

  2. I was curious about something else. Is there anyway to find out how much they actually paid for that property? I can’t seem to find it listed on the register of deeds site.

    • In the report, Valita said they paid about 2.3 million for the land. I wanted to compare that to other property costs for the school but that might be a hard line to draw. For instance, the property values in Carolina Beach will be a lot different than those in Castle Hayne….

      I’m supposed to be getting a copy of the reports soon….I wont be able to post all 115 pages but I’ll try to read through it and pick out what’s most relevant. I’m sure its a real page turner!

      • I wonder why the report is that big. They must have found something. Thanks again for keeping me updated on this. I REALLY appreciate it. If you ever need any vinyl decals, let me know. I’ll give ya a good deal. 😉

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