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US Navy tries minimal clean up Mountain Creek Lake. City of Dallas says,”Whoa!”

December 3, 2011



Staff Writer

Published: 02 December 2011 11:18 PM

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.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. R King permalink
    December 5, 2011 8:36 pm

    OK, Why is Dallas now concerned about this land and the lake? Something is fishy-is the price not high enough? Do we want the land for gas/oil drilling? Does someone want to bring an inland port to the airport?
    Of course this area needs deep clean up; but previous objectors have said cost would be 2-10 bill! More than anyone could hope to profit out there. The Navy has gotten “natural attenuation” approved with a 70-100 yr period whereby the lake would languish and microbes would eat up the hydrocarbons.
    Friends, radioactive Cesium is embedded in lake sediment and radioactive material from rockets (from TEMCO or the space program at Vought) is believed to be buried on site-but no one knows where! Check the Nuclear Regulatory Commisssion records-if they can be produced. The state knows the score and wants this property off its books to the extent possible. However, TCEQ doesn’t act on anything it knows regardless. It wakes up in a new world daily esp if little pressure is being applied. Dallas has had many, many years to get a plan for this land and make it stick.

  2. concerned64 permalink
    December 5, 2011 8:39 pm

    The US Navy agreed to the clean up years ago. Now they are trying to weasel out of it.
    Which is ironic since The City of Dallas wants to drill for gas right up there on the land.
    Pollution on top of pollution is what we have here.

    • R KIng permalink
      December 5, 2011 10:48 pm

      Yes, and my point is that they had pretty successfully weasled out of it-to the point where they were only monitoring “hot spots” and studying experimental “matting” designed to capture PCBs.(?) Nothing was being done about the ever-expanding TCE plumes. The aquifer at the site is completely saturated with TCE and other chems. If that thing cracks-there goes carcinogens from the Cold War, though I don’t doubt the aquifer and lake have been flooded to run this stuff overland many times. Our entire flood plain is dehydrated then rehydrated Superfund soup.
      But if clean up is done now, it’s a positive move.

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