Ecusta Paper Mill is a Superfund redevelopment site, formerly a specialty paper mill, located in the city of Pisgah Forest, Transylvania County, North Carolina. The Site borders the Davidson River, a locally important recreational stream and a tributary to the French Broad River.
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On May 27, 2008 maintenance personnel at the Ecusta Superfund Site began routing black liquor from a storage tank through a process sewer to an onsite aeration-stabilization basin for treatment.
At approximately 11:30 hrs on May 28, 2008, Ecusta personnel were notified by a third party of a sulfur odor and fish kill on the Davidson River approximately one-half of a mile from it's confluence with the French Broad River. The initial investigation revealed that a portion of the waste released to the process sewer had entered a storm drain, flowed to an on-site drainage ditch, and discharged to the River. At approximately 13:30 hrs a temporary containment dam was constructed in the drainage ditch. This temporary structure was reinforced with an earthen dam at approximately 17:30 hrs. Afterward, Ecusta personnel began pumping contaminated storm water from the ditch. Remedial Project Manager (RPM) Jennifer Wendel was notified.
Following consultation with the RPM and the EPA R4 Duty Officer, Ecusta personnel notified the National Response Center of a release of 2,200 gallons of black liquor. RPM Wendel traveled to Ecusta to evaluate the situation. On 5/29/2008, OSC David Andrews was deployed to provide assistance.
During the reporting period the following additional findings and activities were reported by RPM Wendel: 1) Investigation revealed that the black liquor did not enter the Davidson River. Instead, it had flowed to the stabilization basin as intended; 2) The material assumed to be anthraquinone does not appear to match the Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) for the substance. It, therefore, has been designated as an unknown material and has been sampled to identify its composition. This unknown material appears to have entered the storm drain through a compromised portion of the process sewer. An estimated 3,100 gallons were released to the drainage ditch. A portion of this volume entered the Davidson River; 3) The release has been stopped at the source and within the drainage ditch. Recovery of the material that entered the River is not feasible as it is water soluble; No water intakes are located on the Davidson or French Broad downstream of the release in area. The location of the nearest downstream intake is being investigated; a significant fish and aquatic faunal kill has occurred over the one-half mile reach of the Davidson between the release point and the confluence with the French Broad.
Operations are being directed under a Unified Command consisting of the EPA, NCDHEC Superfund and Water Quality, Fish and Wildlife Service, State Division of Health, the County of Transylvania, and Shaw Environmental.