Reprint from the Progress Times - February 17, 2006
©Progress Times 2006 - All Rights Reserved
“We finally got them to come down and take care of the problem.”
That was the reaction of Mission Mayor Beto Salinas to word that the Environmental Protection Agency is going to tackle the problem of contaminated soil in the area around the former Helena Chemical Company site.
The mayor said he expected the EPA to begin its remedial work within the next couple of weeks, adding that work will not only include a protective fence around the old chemical plant site but also demolition of the deteriorating building which once housed the production of the chemicals.
Although Salinas said the city won't be overly involved in the cleanup, officials are ready to provide whatever assistance the EPA might need, such as security at the site.
The first announcement of EPA plans came from U.S. Congressman Lloyd Doggett, who has been active in getting the federal government involved in this latest clean-up effort.
Doggett cited the EPA report which read, in part, "The action proposed for this site is demolition of the buildings and complete removal of debris and contaminated soil. Cleanup standards will reflect the future commercial land use as confirmed by the City of Mission."
Doggett said removal of contamination at the site is long overdue. However, he said, the cleanup should be done to meet residential, not commercial, standards.
"I am also pleased to learn that EPA is working to put a fence around the site," the congressman said, adding, "The City of Mission and its residents deserve immediate protective action from the EPA."
Doggett had been critical of the EPA's earlier reports for omission of such tests as long-term air monitoring, groundwater testing and neighborhood health assessments.
For years, many residents in the areas near the plant site have complained of health problems which they blamed on chemical contamination.
However, even without those tests cited by Doggett, the EPA determined that chemicals such as dieldrin, toxaphene, DDT and heptachlor, among others, are all present at the site and pose serious health risks.
Concerning this latest cleanup, Doggett remarked, "Although no mention is made of compensation for the loss of life, health and homeowner's property, it represents a step in the right direction. I look forward to the time when this site is not only safe, but contributes to the economic well-being of the city and its residents."