Superfund Information Systems: Site Profile

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The Ward Transformer Superfund site includes an area where Ward Transformer Company operated a facility that handled transformers, switchgear and other types of electrical equipment from 1964 to 2006. 

EPA placed the site on the National Priorities List (NPL) in 2003 because of contaminated fish tissue, sediment and soil caused by facility operations.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (NCDEQ) Exitand the site’s potentially responsible parties (PRPs) are investigating site conditions. They are taking steps to clean up the site to protect people and the environment from contamination.

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What Has Been Done to Clean Up the Site?

The site’s PRPs lead site investigation and cleanup activities, with the EPA and NCDEQ providing oversight.

EPA authorized short-term cleanup actions to stop immediate threats. Site PRPs addressed over 420,000 tons of PCB-contaminated material. The PRPs also completed ecological restoration activities in the western part of the site where the uppermost reaches of Little Briar Creek leave the facility area.

EPA reached a global settlement with the potentially responsible parties. This Site is large and complex. Cleanup has been somewhat slower than originally forecasted due to protracted negotiations with the various groups of potentially responsible parties performing the cleanup. Work is now moving forward at a faster pace. Cleanup work at the Ward Transformer Site is expected to be ongoing for several more years.

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What Is the Current Site Status?

Site investigations are typically managed by dividing the Site into Operable Units (OUs).  Site investigations and cleanup activities at Ward focus on two areas.

  • OU-1: contamination downstream from the former Ward Transformer facility, in Reaches B, C and D, Brier Creek Reservoir, Lake Crabtree, and Lower Crabtree Creek. The remedial design for OU-1 is ongoing.
  • OU-2: contamination at the former Ward Transformer facility, surrounding properties and nearby drainage paths uphill from Reach B.  A feasibility study for OU-2 is underway.

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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.

The site’s PRPs placed institutional controls on a portion of the site property to prevent activities that would disturb the site’s soil without prior approval from EPA and NCDEQ. The controls also limit future use of the site to commercial and industrial uses.

The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services issues and oversees Fish Consumption Advisories. There are fish consumption advisories on Little Brier Creek, Brier Creek, Lake Crabtree, and Crabtree Creek, all of which are waters downstream of the Ward Transformer Site. EPA is working to clean up the PCB-contaminated sediments that led to these fish advisories, which should eventually lead to lower PCB levels in fish.

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Sampling and Monitoring

Draft results of sediment sampling done in Brier Creek Reservoir in August 2018 are encouraging. All results are well below one ppb total PCBs

Fish consumption advisories are currently in effect for the water bodies related to the site.

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Emergency Response and Removal

In 2006, EPA authorized short-term cleanup actions to stop immediate threats. As part of short-term cleanup actions, the PRPs have addressed over 420,000 tons of PCB-contaminated material.

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Enforcement Information

Enforcing environmental laws is a central part of EPA’s mission to protect human health and the environment. When warranted, EPA will take civil or criminal enforcement action against violators of environmental laws.

In 2004 and 2005, EPA negotiated legal agreements with the site’s PRPs to conduct the short-term cleanup actions. From 2008 to 2012, EPA negotiated legal agreements with the site’s PRPs to conduct the remedial design/remedial action for OU-1. The PRPs continue to fund remedial design and cleanup activities.

In 2016 EPA reached a global settlement with the potentially responsible parties including an agreement to fund the remaining work at the site, which is now underway.

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