Forbidden Fruit in WNC

By Paige Carrick

Staff Writer

A local orchard and residential community in Western North Carolina is an active Superfund site according to the EPA. Barbers Orchard off of HWY 23/74 in Waynesville, NC was proposed to the National Priorities List in January 2001 and finalized in September of 2001. The near 500-acre section of apple country is still, seven years later, listed as an active Superfund site by the EPA.

At the time of the proposal traces of Arsenic, Lead, Dieldrin, Endrin, and DDT were found in the residential soils and in private drinking wells. Remedy construction and re-construction of the site has still not taken place.

From 1908-1988 the land was used as a commercial lot for apple farming. Today, a large portion of the land serves a residential community while another, smaller portion, is set aside to serve as an apple orchard.

Each year Barbers Orchard hosts an apple festival to celebrate the coming of fall and the peak of apple season which begins in September and ends in November. It is one of the community’s largest fundraisers in which all variations of the forbidden fruit can be found including apple cider, apple butter, apple turnovers, cakes and cookies.

Should the fruit of the trees in this land be considered forbidden?

In 2002, the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry submitted a public health assessment to the media in which the presence of Arsenic and Lead in the surface soil and pesticides in the groundwater was listed as a primary concern; however, the amount of contaminants found was not enough to cause significant harm. This statement was released just one year after the EPA funded and completed an overall site removal of all immediate and near-term threats to human health and the environment. Also, while remedy designs were finalized in 2005, the last major cleanup milestone, according to the EPA, was the formalization, in 2001, of the site on the NPL.

It has been several years since active clean-up efforts have been completed. According to the EPA 321 out of 438 acres are okay for reuse. Reuse however is contingent upon the land meeting a particular level of protectiveness that will support future use, either residential or non-residential.