Superfund Information Systems: Site Profile

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The 450-acre Celanese Shelby Fiber Operations site (the "Site") is located in Shelby, North Carolina. The Site includes the area where the Celanese Corporation (Celanese) has operated a manufacturing facility since 1960. EPA placed the site on the Superfund program’s National Priorities List (NPL) in 1986 because of contaminated groundwater, soil, and sediment resulting from facility operations.

EPA, the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (NCDENR), and the Site’s potentially responsible party (PRP) Celanese have investigated Site conditions and taken steps to clean up the Site in order to protect people and the environment from contamination. Site contamination does not currently threaten people living and working near the Site. By treating contaminated soil and sediment, recovering and monitoring contaminated groundwater, and conducting required Five-Year Reviews, EPA, NCDENR, and Celanese continue to protect people and the environment from site contamination.

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What Has Been Done to Clean Up the Site?

  • Celanese constructed the groundwater pump-and-treat system in 1989 and operated the system until 2004, when EPA and NCDENR approved a remedy change to MNA. Additional focused groundwater removal and treatment has been performed since 2012.
  • Construction of the OU-2 remedy took place between 1991 and 1992. Celanese excavated, incinerated, and solidified 10,000 cubic yards of contaminated source wastes on site. Celanese then backfilled the solidified materials into the quarries on site and regraded and seeded the areas with grass. EPA deleted the cleaned-up portion of the site from the NPL in 1998.
  • In 2010, Celanese identified residual groundwater contamination in the former waste disposal area. In 2011, Celanese proposed drilling three extraction wells to pump the impacted groundwater and discharge it into the plant’s wastewater treatment system. EPA and NCDENR approved the focused pump-and-treat system in December 2011, and the system was constructed and became operational in 2012.
  • EPA has conducted several Five-Year Reviews of the Site’s remedy. These reviews ensure that the remedies put in place protect public health and the environment, and function as intended by Site decision documents. The most recent review, completed in 2016, concluded that response actions at OU-1 and OU-2 are in accordance with the remedy selected by EPA and that the remedial actions taken continue to be protective of human health and the environment in the short term. Continued protectiveness of the remedy requires additional work, including implementation of institutional controls.

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What Is the Current Site Status?


The most recent Five Year Review was published by EPA HQs in 2016.  The Protectiveness Status is – Short Term Protective.

  • Site investigations and cleanup activities at the Site were split into two operable units (OUs). Operable Unit One (OU-1) addresses groundwater contamination, while Operable Unit Two (OU-2) addressed the source waste and sediment contamination.
  • The OU-1 groundwater pump-and-treat system is a long-term remedial action. Semi-annual groundwater monitoring continues as part of the OU-1 remedy. Celanese has conducted further studies of the groundwater beneath inactive areas of the plant, and have added moreinstalled additional groundwater extraction wells to enhance the recovery of contamination.
  • EPA completed the last Five-Year Review in 2016.

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Activity and Use Limitations

At this site, activity and use limitations that EPA calls institutional controls are in place. Institutional controls play an important role in site remedies because they reduce exposure to contamination by limiting land or resource use. They also guide human behavior. For instance, zoning restrictions prevent land uses – such as residential uses – that are not consistent with the level of cleanup.

For more background, see Institutional Controls.

EPA uses institutional controls to reduce exposure to contamination by restricting access to contaminated areas. Institutional controls can also guide human behavior through legal mechanisms such as deed restrictions and public health warning signs. 

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Sampling and Monitoring

In late 2010 and early 2011, the PRP conducted a drinking water well survey. It did not find any private wells in use. Properties with water supply agreements were connected to Cleveland County's public water supply. Additional sampling and monitoring activities are on-going.

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Enforcement Information

The EPA negotiated legal agreements with Celanese to investigate and clean up the Site. The PRP continues to fund Site cleanup and monitoring activities.

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