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Big Tex meetin'

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Get your Big Tex questions answered, or at least aired, at a public meeting Tuesday, January 15, in the Brackenridge High School cafeteria -- at 400 Eagleland Drive, just across the river from the offending site. Among the info EPA will share at the confab: The federal clean-up agency has issued a Unilateral Administrative Order to Big Tex owner James Lifshutz for access to sample and test for asbestos contamination levels at the old W.R. Grace vermiculite-processing facility. This round of testing follows 2006 preliminary results that showed worrisomely high concentrations of asbestos in some areas of the site, which for almost 30 years handled asbestos-laden vermiculite from Libby, Montana -- where a Grace-owned mine turned the entire town into a Superfund site.

While a "Unilateral Administrative Order" sounds powerful, and is in fact a directive, Lifshutz can still refuse the EPA access, which would require the agency to go before a federal judget to get a court order for testing. According to EPA On-Scene Coordinator Eric Delgado, Lifshutz had consented to let the EPA enter the property for sampling, but in return had asked to be held harmless in case any of his former Big Tex tenants develop asbestosis 20 years down the road. There's "no way we can do that," says Delgado; those unacceptable conditions led to the UAO.

Lifshutz did not return a call asking how he plans to respond to the UAO, but his office said a representative will attend Tuesday's meeting. Delgado will also be there, as well as reps from TCEQ and the Texas Department of State Health Services.

The Brackenridge cafeteria is fully ADA accessible. For more info on Big Tex, see "Test the Artists, but with what?" and The Queque.

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