Dickinson Superfund Site

A “For Sale” sign hangs on a fence surrounding a Superfund site on the outskirts of Dickinson on Tuesday, April 2, 2019.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality will hold a public meeting at Dickinson City Hall on Thursday night to talk about proposed remedies for an obscure and long dormant state Superfund site, which has gone on the block for sale.

The Hall Street Superfund site is on 10.2 acres at the northeast corner of California Avenue and 20th Street — formerly Hall Street. A “For Sale By Owner” sign hangs on a fence at the property and a visit to dickinsonland.com shows a selling price of $200,000 with property taxes of about $300 a year. Frequently asked questions at the web site direct potential buyers to government web sites that explain the steps buyers have to take to purchase a superfund site.

Environmental guidelines deem the property unsuitable for development until the commission can figure out a remedy to remove or protect people against pollution at the site, especially in the groundwater, according to a commission feasibility study completed in February. The land hosts four groundwater-bearing units beneath the site, geographical formations that produce groundwater and which continue to show higher levels than suitable of chemicals such as benzene, the chemical that first burned in the recent Deer Park container farm blaze.

Nonetheless, the feasibility study touts Superfund sites as potential bargains, ripe with future development opportunity for owners who hang on to the land throughout the completion of the remediation. The study does not estimate how long it might take to complete the clean-up at the Hall Street site.

The Hall Street site has a long history of chemical waste dumping and attempts by government entities to clean it up.

From 1958 to 1964, wastes from chemical and petrochemical manufacturers in the Houston-Galveston area were dumped without permits on part of the land. Wastes included liquids, polymers, sludge and tars, disposed of by open-field dumping or burial in 55-gallon steel drums in shallow trenches and pits. Waste might also have been incinerated on-site, according to the feasibility study.

When neighbors in the mixed rural and residential area began complaining of odors coming from the site, an investigation ensued by the Environmental Protection Agency in 1983 that found the site posed no immediate danger to neighbors surrounding it. The land was, in 1987, declared a Superfund site. It joined thousands across the country that represented a possible imminent and substantial endangerment to public health and safety or to the environment because of the release or threatened release of hazardous substances into the environment.

Galveston County is home to four officially designated Superfund sites with one in La Marque, two in Texas City — which are federal Superfund sites managed by the EPA — and the state-designated Hall Street site, all of them at various remedial stages, according to the commission.

Public comment will be heard at Thursday’s meeting as well as comments registered by mail during the public comment period, after legal announcements in the Texas Register and The Daily News starting March 1.

Commission specialists will present a range of remedies for the Hall Street site, including establishment of a Plume Management Zone to help contain contaminated groundwater. Other remedies range from basically letting nature take its course to pumping pressurized oxygen into the ground to move things around.

In 1992, the Texas Water Commission began a remedial investigation and constructed a fence around the perimeter of the Hall Street site. In 2009, the environmental commission excavated and disposed of almost 9,200 tons of buried waste and associated contaminated soil and eventually filled in with clean soil, according to the Hall Street information page at the Texas commission’s online superfund site.

From 2009 to 2018, the commission conducted extensive groundwater monitoring at the site and concluded that some levels that could be harmful to humans remain in the tainted groundwater units.

In February, the commission prepared a Proposed Remedial Action Document presenting remedial action alternatives and describing the evaluation process that was used to select those possible remedies.

By state law, the commission selects the clean-up remedy for a site by determining which remedial alternative is the lowest cost alternative that is technologically feasible and reliable, effectively mitigates and minimizes damage to the environment and provides adequate protection of public health and safety and the environment, said Andrea Morrow, media relations manager at the commission.

The meeting is open to the public and begins at 7 p.m. Anyone wanting information on the Hall Street Superfund site or others in Galveston County can find the commission’s repository of reports at the Helen Hall Library in League City.

Kathryn Eastburn: 409-683-5257; kathryn.eastburn@galvnews.com.

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