Author: Laura J. Leonard, Mary Alice Blackstock
Last month, Governor Cooper visited Navassa, a community with a long history of industrial pollution, to announce the redevelopment of a former boat factory site into a manufacturing operation that will bring an economic boost to the area with no environmental risk.
Pacon Manufacturing Corp., a New Jersey-based company that manufactures pads, wipes, towels and liquids for consumer, industrial and medical use, expects to bring nearly 300 new jobs and more than $37 million in economic investment to Brunswick County.
This ‘feather-in-the-cap’ for Navassa was due in part to the successful cleanup work through the Department of Environmental Quality’s Inactive Hazardous Sites-Registered Environmental Consultant (REC) Program in the Division of Waste Management’s Superfund Section.
The plant, which Pacon Manufacturing hopes to have operational by the end of 2019, will sit on the site of an old fertilizer manufacturing facility and a former U.S. Marine boat manufacturing operation that DEQ once deemed a contaminated site.
For nearly 130 years, the site was used for fertilizer manufacturing by several owners. From 1999 to 2009, it was used to make fiberglass boats and yachts. Then, it sat idle with no prospects for use because its industrial heritage left a legacy of probable contamination.
The state coordinated cleanup through its REC Program, which oversees voluntary cleanup of contaminated sites by private environmental consulting or engineering firms. A former site owner – KCS International, Inc. – entered into an agreement with the REC Program in 2010 to voluntarily assess the site’s soil, groundwater and sediment impacts and implement a cleanup plan. While this work showed that wastes from the former fertilizer manufacturing processes had been removed and there were acceptable levels in the soil, groundwater and adjacent wetlands, it also showed levels of the pesticide, Dieldrin, slightly above North Carolina’s groundwater standard.
The site became a candidate for risk-based remediation – a cleanup approach enabled by state legislation that allows cleanup of contaminants to levels that pose no unacceptable risks for the site’s current use. KCS and its consultant worked toward a site-specific, risk-based remedy with a cleanup plan that showed the pesticide would not, at any time in the future, reach the wetlands or Brunswick River at levels exceeding the state’s standards. The cleanup plan also includes a deed restriction preventing groundwater supply wells on the property. The division approved the remedy, and the deed restriction was signed in July 2018. Just a few months after, Pacon representatives inquired about the site’s cleanup status.
Following the REC-directed assessment and cleanup, the site was designated the status of No Further Action on Nov. 27, indicating that the work was complete, having met the site-specific cleanup standards.
“Because of the efforts of KCS, its REC consultant and our section’s cleanup oversight, the site was ready for purchase and redevelopment,” Superfund Section Chief Jim Bateson said. “This was just one of the many sites in the area that need to be addressed, but it’s a great step in the broader effort to plan and prepare for economic growth in the town.”
Since 2015, the division has approved 13 risk-based cleanup remedies, meaning those sites can either continue to be used or redeveloped for future uses, bringing positive impacts to those communities.
Pacon Manufacturing will provide much-needed economic recovery and development to Navassa, one of the communities hit hardest by Hurricane Florence last September.
“Hurricane Florence dealt a powerful blow to this area just six months ago, but North Carolinians are strong and resilient and today we are here to celebrate the good news of good jobs,” said Governor Roy Cooper in an April 5 press release. “Pacon Manufacturing chose North Carolina because of our strong workforce, infrastructure and community support, and they are committed to working with us as we rebuild.”