At an October 15 public meeting sponsored by the Swannanoa Superfund Community Advisory Group (CAG), attendees learned more about the potential for placing a portion of the Superfund property in a conservation easement. The easement would cover approximately 500 acres of land that is currently part of the Superfund site, but on which no previous contamination has been found.
A conservation easement is a voluntary legal agreement between a land owner and a qualified conservation organization that permanently restricts development rights on the property, thereby preserving and protecting the land, habitat, water quality and scenic views. The land owner retains ownership, subject to the conservation restrictions. The easement stays with the land if it’s sold or passed on.
Attendees at the October 15 meeting learned that the Potentially Responsible Parties, or PRPs (current and former owners of the Superfund property) have applied to the Southern Superfund Site – Community Involvement Logo Appalachian Highlands Conservancy, a regional land conservation organization, to hold the easement on the property. Robb Fox, an attorney representing the PRPs, explained that the goal is put a perpetual easement on the property that would limit its use to sustainable forestry. A forest management plan, which would include removal of invasive species from the property, is expected to be finalized by spring 2016. The PRPs plan to return to the CAG at that time with more details about the conservation easement and forest management plan. Due to liability issues and concerns about people straying on to the Superfund site, it’s not expected that the public will be allowed access to the conservation easement property.
The remainder of the original 1027-acre site, located off Old Bee Tree Road, would remain on the federal Superfund list and would not be affected by the conservation easement. A Feasibility Study for additional remediation efforts on the contaminated portion of the property, which at one time housed a weapons manufacturing facility, is ongoing. Representatives from the EPA, NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources, and Altamont Engineering are expected to be on hand at the next CAG meeting to give a report on findings of the feasibility study to date. The meeting will take place on Thursday, November 19, at 6:30 p.m., at the Bee Tree Fire Station, 510 Bee Tree Road.
To learn more about the Swannanoa Superfund CAG and the Chemtronics Superfund site, please visit