Industrial leak dumps thousands of gallons of oil into Hominy Creek; 4,000 gallons may have reached French Broad

Jason Sandford

Jason Sandford is a reporter, writer, blogger and photographer interested in all things Asheville.

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UPDATED 12:53 p.m.: City council member Gordon Smith is on the scene and Tweets the cleanup.

UPDATED 12:25 p.m.: 4000 gallons of oil might have reached the river in a 5000-gallon spill.

Via Buncombe County commissioner Brownie Newman, French Broad Riverkeeper Hartwell Carson states the spill originated with APAC Atlantic, which shares an 1188 Smoky Park Highway address in Enka with Harrison Construction.

From  Brownie Newman‘s comment on Byron Ballard’s Facebook post:

“I spoke to Hartwell Carson, the French Broad Riverkeeper for the WNC Alliance. Hartwell is out at the river now. Here is what he reported. Ths spill originated from the APAC company facilities located near the quarry in Candler. About 5,000 gallons of fuel oil spilled from a tank on their property. The above ground tank is located inside a concrete basin that is supposed to contain any oil in the event there is a leak from the tank. However, there is a drain valve in the tank that allows rainwater to be released from the basin, but that drain valve failed and allowed the oil to drain through and go to the Hominy River. Hartwell thinks about 4,000 of the 5,000 gallons reached the river. DENR, EPA and the local fire dept are working to remove oil from the river now. Hartwell reported that some oil has reached the French Broad River. That’s what I know for now. Hartwell asked that if people see evidence of the oil in the French Broad River downstream from the confluence with Hominy Creek to please report it. Hartwell can be reached at [email protected] or 828-817-5258. Holly Jones, Gordon Smith and I are heading over to the river now to see if we can learn more. I will relay more info as I get additional info.”

UPDATED 11:09 a.m. and 12:15 p.m.: Local news photographer and former Mountain Xpress contributor Bill Rhodes reports that the source of the leak is Harrison Construction on Smoky Park, and that the AFD was involved in mitigating the spill.

Rhodes also offers personal confirmation that oil is in the French Broad River.

Rhodes’ shots of the spill in Hominy Creek are here on Flickr.

Harrison Construction on Google Plus.


WLOS reports that a Friday fuel tank leak after an apparent equipment malfunction has spilled thousands of gallons of fuel oil into Hominy Creek in West Asheville:

The City of Asheville says several thousand gallons of oil leaked from an above ground tank at a business on Smoky Park Highway Friday afternoon. The leak was discovered by workers at a nearby business. The City of Asheville says it appears the leak started after a piece of equipment malfunctioned. The City of Asheville says the oil leaked into a storm drain that connected to Hominy Creek. They don’t believe the spill reached the French Broad River. Crews spent Friday night cleaning up the spill.

Read more from WLOS here. No confirmation yet as to the name of the Smoky Park Highway business that owns the tank.

Despite WLOS quoting the city as not believing the spill reached the river, an unconfirmed video from an Asheville-area resident Sheri Barker purports to show oil that made its way into the French Broad. Click here to see the video. (UPDATED 2:17 p.m., Barker shares this via email: “I shot that video this morning at the Hominy Creek River Park, looking into the French Broad River, sometime between 8 and 9 am this morning.”)

According to WLOS, the EPA is on the scene.

Map of Hominy Creek here from Google maps.


Jason Sandford

Jason Sandford is a reporter, writer, blogger and photographer interested in all things Asheville.

  • 1

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  1. Jennifer Saylor February 22, 2014

    From city council member Gordon Smith on Facebook 2/21/14:

    Regarding the Hominy Creek Fuel Oil – From our Fire Chief, Scott Burnette: The NC DENR UST Section is monitoring on-site activity regarding the cleanup. As of this morning (2/20/14) all areas up-gradient of the retention pond have been remediated to the best extent possible and samples have been collected and sent to the lab for quick turnaround. The retention pond on-site was pumped dry this morning and contaminated soils will be excavated.

    In relation to the storm water pipe that discharges to Hominy Creek; On 2/18/14 and 2/19/14 contaminated soils were excavated to the maximum extent possible adjacent to the creek, approximately 120′ of the storm water pipe has been removed, contaminated soils (where identified) have been excavated, and a new storm water pipe is being installed. Harrison Construction is continuing with removal of the storm water pipe and where identified contaminated soils will be excavated. According to the consultant on-site the storm water pipe was in good condition and contamination has not been identified as they progress up-gradient from the creek. It appears that the majority of soil contamination was identified between the former railroad (on Vulcan’s Property) and the creek.

    NC DENR is overseeing stream operations including ‘auditing’ the boom maintenance contractors in their daily activities. The contractors are checking, inspecting, maintaining, etc. booms twice a day currently and faxing a report to us daily. The booms are having variable effectiveness at this point simply due the presence of only a light sheen in most areas. With rains and related changes in stream flow, we can expect variability in sheen that is observed. NC DENR is in communication with the Riverkeeper in trying to keep facts and clarity out there. Onsite activities have been aggressive with soil removal, pavement decon, etc. NC DENR will keep the booms in as long as they are excavated impacted soils near the creek and we feel they are effective.”

  2. Russell Gile February 16, 2014

    Has anyone considered that the Asheville area is under a 9-12″ snow melt and the containment basin valve was opened to relive the melt water…and Harrison cannot be expected to have someone monitor every inch of their property; they responded immediately by hiring NEO Corp.

    It appears the cold weather caused a tank fitting to fail and while this is an unfortuniate event; it is at the fault of no one directly. Had there been preventable sabotage or an inadvertent spill due to tank misuse then the shoe would be on the other foot. Simply having a malfunction similar to the MSD spill last summer does not require our fearless RiverKeeper and his amateur sidekick to hop in their canoes to go investigate. How about the Commissioners heading in carpool to a site 10 miles from the spill itself for a photo op and chance to use the Instagram apps on their phones…interesting…but yet they cannot solve the counties real problems.

    With the FB flowing at 2million cfs (960,000 gps) the spill has been far diluted to have any adverse effects outside of the immediate area where the APAC/Harrison storm drain deposits into Hominy Creek.

    1. theOtherBarry February 16, 2014

      Another hater trying to distract from the issue by attacking Hartwell and Bill, and now the County Commissioners. Fascinating.

    2. Jennifer Saylor February 17, 2014

      “Russell,” you posted a second comment to this blog using the name Cole Fulbright. Both posts share the same IP address. Are “Russell Gile” and “Cole Fulbright” sharing the same computer, or are you using unethcial and dishonest techniques to shift the conversation on this blog?

      Names used: Russell Gile, Cole Fulbright

      Email addresses used: [email protected], [email protected]

      IP address origin: Candler NC

      1. theOtherBarry February 17, 2014

        Two haters turn out to be only one, right here in River City? Fascinating.

        Why, that’s less than a mile from APAC-Atlantic/Harrison Construction.

        1. theOtherBarry February 17, 2014

          …And that address appears to be owned by someone affiliated with Oldcastle, the ginormous corporation that owns APAC-Atlantic, Harrison Construction, etc.

          Who’d’a guessed?

          1. Jennifer Saylor February 21, 2014

            Barry, can you be more clear about a possible relationship between the fake-ID commenter and Oldcastle?

          2. theOtherBarry February 22, 2014


            You have my address – email me directly & I’ll send it all to you.

      2. Ptim February 18, 2014

        I just emailed us Army Corp of Engineers to see if the Fulbright/Giles comments represent their policies.
        I also enquired about their policies regarding use of government resources to create false identities to comment in online forums.

      3. ptim February 21, 2014

        HQ-PUBLIC AFFAIRS [email protected]

        3:01 PM (19 hours ago)

        to me
        Classification: UNCLASSIFIED
        Caveats: NONE

        Thank you for the information. The email address you provided is not a legitimate USACE email address. It appears as if this person is impersonating a USACE employee. We will forward this item to the appropriate officials for further investigation.

        Thank you,
        USACE Public Affairs

        1. theOtherBarry February 23, 2014

          Ҥ912. Officer or employee of the United States

          Whoever falsely assumes or pretends to be an officer or employee acting under the authority of the United States or any department, agency or officer thereof, and acts as such, or in such pretended character demands or obtains any money, paper, document, or thing of value, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.

          (June 25, 1948, ch. 645, 62 Stat. 742; Pub. L. 103–322, title XXXIII, §330016(1)(H), Sept. 13, 1994, 108 Stat. 2147.)”

  3. Heather Rayburn February 16, 2014

    The current state legislature under the brutal incompetence of McCrory-Pope–Apodaca-Moffitt, etc., is not in the position to respond adequately to environment disasters.

    McCrory appointed a Raleigh businessman named John Skvarla to head NCDENR (the state agency charged with environmental protection). According to the Washington Post, Skvarla “describes his agency’s role as being a ‘partner’ to those it regulates, whom he refers to as ‘customers.’”

    It was hard enough to get adequate environmental protection under a Democratic statehouse. It is utterly impossible now. Duke’s coal ash from their Skyland plant threatens the French Broad River. And given the way the state has handled the Dan River disaster, I have little hope that the Hominy/French Broad oil spill will be taken care of properly. I really want to be wrong about that.

    When voters elect people who worship at the feet of corporate privateering and profess to hate government, then regulation is gutted, polluters suddenly become customers and the protection of the public good is lost.

  4. theOtherBarry February 16, 2014

    The company taking responsibility for the spill is going by “Harrison Construction”, not “APAC-Atlantic”.

    I wonder why. Hmm…

  5. theOtherBarry February 15, 2014

    The company that spilled this oil into the French Broad River is a subsidiary of the “No. 1 Asphalt producer in the United States”. Will almost certainly be one of the biggest beneficiaries of the I-26 widening.

    But don’t worry – they are “Embracing the Environment”.

  6. theOtherBarry February 15, 2014

    Just came from Hominy Creek. The “containment” is a joke. The boom is out of the water on the side of the creek where the heaviest flow of oil is concentrated. You can see it on the surface coming down the creek, and right around the boom, then on to the French Broad, which from the boat launch area there, still reeks of diesel.

    1. Matt February 15, 2014

      thanks for checking it out in person, Barry. I’m feeling sad to hear that the containment may not be something that is being taken seriously.

      1. Lisa Baldwin February 15, 2014

        “I’m feeling sad to hear that the containment may not be something that is being taken seriously”…Pisgah Elem School 2,000+ gallon fuel oil spill cost BCS tens of thousands of dollars to clean-up in 2010. Many unanswered questions…monitoring well levels still high…have nearby sources of drinking water been tested? Why wasn’t fuel oil tank inspected when installed? Why didn’t the media report? Were parents informed?

      2. theOtherBarry February 16, 2014

        The boom we saw on Hominy Creek near the French Broad was apparently the Asheville Fire Department’s – a last defense before the river. The private company hired to contain the spill had two more booms further up the creek, closer to the spill, and even more are being put in tonight.

        The sad truth is that so far it appears to be ineffective.

        Here is tonight’s WLOS coverage:

        Funny thing, though – the company taking responsibility for the spill is going by “Harrison Construction”, not “APAC-Atlantic”.

        I wonder why. Hmm…


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