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Potter's Septic Tank Service Pits

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View of the Potter's Septic Tank Service Pits site.

Additional Resources
Site Summary Profile
EPA ID: NCD981023260
Location: Sandy Creek, Brunswick County, NC
Lat/Long: 34.284600, -078.157800
Congressional District: 07
NPL Status: Proposed: 06/24/88; Final: 03/31/89
Affected Media: Ground water, Soil
Cleanup Status: Construction Complete – Physical cleanup activities have been completed.
Human Exposure Under Control: Yes
Groundwater Migration Under Control: Yes
Sitewide Ready for Anticipated Use: No
Site Reuse/Redevelopment: None
Site Manager: Beverly Stepter (stepter.beverly@epa.gov)


Current Site Status

The Potter's Septic Tank Service Pits site includes an area where a sludge hauling and oil spill cleanup company operated from 1969 until 1976. Between 1980 and 1983, the site and surrounding properties changed ownership and the new owner developed the area into a residential neighborhood. EPA placed the site on the National Priorities List (NPL) in 1989 because of contaminated ground water and soil resulting from the operations and waste handling practices. EPA and the North Carolina Department of Environment and Natural Resources (NCDENR) 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. A water line connects residences to the public water supply. By monitoring ground water contamination, working to place institutional controls on the site property and undertaking Five-Year Reviews, EPA and NCDENR continue to protect people and the environment from site contamination.

Site Location and Background

The 5-acre site is located immediately south of U.S. Highway 74/76 in Sandy Creek, Brunswick County, North Carolina. The site includes an area of land within a residential neighborhood, one mile west of Maco, North Carolina. The residential area includes some low-income residents. Residences and forested land border the site. The site’s broader surroundings include rural residential properties and agricultural land.

From 1969 until 1976, the Skipper family owned the site and operated a sludge hauling and oil spill cleanup company. Operations disposed of septic tank sludge, oil sludge and other waste materials in shallow unlined pits or onto the ground at the site. In 1976, the owners pumped approximately 2,000 to 3,000 gallons of black oil from a pit on site and covered the pit with soil. Also in 1976, an earthen berm at the site failed, releasing approximately 20,000 gallons of oil from another on-site pit. Oil flowed into Rattlesnake Creek and the U.S. Coast Guard responded to clean up the spill. After the spill, site owners pumped the remaining 20,000 gallons of oil from the remaining pits and disposed of the oil off site. The site owners also dug up sludge and oil-stained soil, disposed of it an off-site facility and mixed the sludge remaining on site with sand.

Between 1980 and 1983, the site changed ownership and the new owner developed the site into residential lots. In 1983, the owner found sludge in the yard of one residential property. In 1984, EPA removed approximately three million pounds of contaminated soil from the site and disposed of it off site. In 1989, EPA listed the site on the NPL. The site is not in use.

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Threats and Contaminants

Site investigations found contamination in ground water and soil that could potentially harm people in the area. Contamination resulted from operations and waste handling practices at the site.  Contaminants of concern include tetrachloroethylene (also known as PCE or PERC), trichloroethylene, benzene, toluene, ethylbenzene, naphthalene, xylene, chromium, lead, 1,2,4-trimethylbenzene and 1,3,5-trimethylbenzene.

Ground water contamination remains within the site’s boundary. Contamination has not affected residential wells that people use for drinking water or related purposes. EPA does not consider ground water to pose a threat to people because a water line connects residences to the public water supply.

EPA assessed whether residents or workers might be at risk from harmful ground water vapors in buildings. EPA found that vapor intrusion did not pose a threat to residents and workers.

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Investigation and Cleanup Responsibility / Oversight

EPA leads site investigation and cleanup activities in cooperation with NCDENR.

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Site Cleanup Plan

In 1992, EPA issued a cleanup plan (a Record of Decision, or ROD) for the site. The plan included the following activities:

In 2000, EPA issued an amendment to the cleanup plan (a ROD Amendment) for the site. The amended plan included the following activities:

Summaries of site cleanup approaches are also available online in key site cleanup documents, including the ROD, ROD Amendment and Five-Year Reviews.

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Cleanup Progress

EPA conducted soil cleanup activities in 1994. EPA cleaned up approximately 32,000 cubic yards of contaminated soil.

Following collection of ground water data in 2000, EPA determined that ground water contamination had decreased and that monitored natural attenuation could address remaining contamination.

In 2001, EPA began monitored natural attenuation at the site.

The site’s second Five-Year Review, completed in 2007, found that the cleanup continues to protect people and the environment in the short term. For the cleanup to protect people and the environment over the long term, the Five-Year Review recommended placing institutional controls on the site property.

In 2010, Brunswick County installed a water and sewer line to connect residences to the public water supply.

Summaries of cleanup activities are also available in Five-Year Reviews online.

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Enforcement Activities

EPA initially used federal funds for site cleanupactivities. In 2002, under a legal agreement with EPA, site potentiallyresponsible parties agreed to pay $5.7 million for past and future cleanup costs, plus an additionalamount for interest.

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Community Involvement

EPA has worked with the community and its state partner to develop a long-term cleanup plan for the site, reflecting the Agency’s commitment to safe, healthy communities and environmental protection. Community engagement and public outreach are core components of EPA program activities.

EPA has conducted a range of community involvement activities to solicit community input and to make sure the public remains informed about site activities throughout the cleanup process. Outreach efforts have included public notices, interviews and public meetings.

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Future Work

EPA continues to monitor ground water semi-annually.

EPA is working to place institutional controls on the site property to restrict use of ground water and soil.

EPA anticipates that the site will support residential uses.

EPA completed the last Five-Year Review in 2007 and plans to complete the next Five-Year Review in 2012.

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Additional Information

EPA keeps additional site documents and information in a site information repository at the location below. EPA also posts site documents, when available, on EPA’s CERCLIS Site Profile page. For documents not available on the website, please contact the Region 4 Freedom of Information Office.

Site Repository

Leland Public Library
487 Village Road
Leland, NC 28451

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