US Navy tries minimal clean up Mountain Creek Lake. City of Dallas says,”Whoa!”
After years of trying, the U.S. Navy is close to selling a stretch of severely polluted industrial land in western Dallas where military equipment and aircraft parts have been produced for decades.
But the city of Dallas has expressed serious concerns about the Navy’s proposed plan to clean up a toxic soup of heavy metals, petroleum, cyanide, herbicides and other poisons that permeate the land and groundwater and sediment bedding a small lake called Cottonwood Bay.
Dallas officials also wonder if the Navy’s plan doesn’t run afoul of a 2002 settlement between the city and the Navy over the cleanup of the adjacent Hensley Field.
Further complicating the issue is worry about the future of the Triumph-Vought aircraft manufacturing plant and 2,700 employees who work on the site.
“We have two primary concerns. We are concerned about the economic viability of Hensley Field and any potential contaminants that lie under it. And we’re equally concerned about the future of a major Dallas employer and any actions the Navy takes that affects either of those,” said Assistant City Manager Ryan Evans.
The Navy, which leases the land to the Vought Aircraft Division, is scheduled for a Dec. 7 hearing before the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. There, it hopes to get an order approving its plans to clean up the 424-acre Naval Weapons Industrial Reserve Plant to facilitate its transfer to a new owner.
And despite the city’s concerns, the Navy plans to push forward with its plan.
“That has been the recommendation, and that is the route we are going to proceed on,” said Tina Jaegerman, spokeswoman for the General Services Administration, which is handling the sale.
City Hall has been guarded in public comments about the matter because of the possibility of a legal wrangle with the Navy.
But Assistant City Manager Jill Jordan sent the TCEQ a five-page letter in August raising objections to the Navy plan.
“The remedy does not satisfy the Navy’s obligations to the city pursuant to an enforceable settlement agreement, and the remedy restricts the future development over and through the contaminated groundwater area,” Jordan wrote.
The Navy is selling the land to a St. Louis company called Environmental Liability Transfer. The company placed a high bid of $1,060,000 on the land under the name Cottonwood Bay LLC.
Closure of the sale is contingent on the Navy getting the cleanup plan approved by the TCEQ.
A lawyer for Environmental Liability Transfer declined to comment on the sale.
Even if the Navy unloads the land, it will still bear ultimate responsibility for cleanup. Under federal law, the U.S. government must remediate any land it pollutes.
But it’s the way the Navy wants to clean up the site that has City Hall concerned.
The Navy has proposed a threefold cleanup plan, and the TCEQ has given its preliminary approval.
First, the Navy would remove contaminated soil to a depth of five feet.
It also would dredge, but not remove, polluted sediment in Cottonwood Bay. The sediment would be consolidated, capped with a barrier and covered with a foot of gravel.
Finally, the Navy would set up permeable barriers and a management zone to monitor the potential spread of a plume of contaminated groundwater.
Jordan’s letter said that plan simply doesn’t do enough to clean the land and water.
“The city is not comfortable with containing contaminated sediments in Cottonwood Bay and is concerned about the future risk of human and environmental exposure,” she wrote.
The city also thinks the proposed creation of a “plume management zone” to monitor the polluted groundwater is inadequate.
“The city does not agree sufficient monitoring has been conducted to determine that the groundwater plume is stable and will not migrate further onto the city of Dallas property,” Jordan wrote.
Those issues could be grounds for another legal fight between the Navy and the city.
Meanwhile, it’s unclear what will become of Triumph-Vought even if the Navy and the city can come to an agreement.
John Robinson, branch chief of real property redeployment and disposal for GSA, said the intention is that the sale won’t affect Triumph-Vought’s future.
“Everything we’ve done has been to allow Vought to stay. We don’t want to have any kind of impact on their decision. That’s completely up them,” he said.
The company, officially known as Triumph Aerostructures-Vought Aircraft Division, recently acquired 100 acres in Red Oak, raising speculation that Dallas workers will be moved to a new facility there.
Vought declined to comment on the company’s future in Dallas.