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EPA updates Big Tex cleanup plan


“The greatest danger facing us is ourselves and our irrational fear of the unknown. But there is no such thing as the unknown. There are only things temporarily hidden, temporarily not understood.” — Capt. James T. Kirk

This quote from the Star Trek poster in the cafeteria at Brackenridge High served as a symbolic reminder of the questions in the air during the public meeting held by EPA Region 6 last night in order to explain their cleanup plan for the controversial asbestos contamination at the Big Tex Grain site. While much about the extent of the contamination is now known, it's the looming specter of what might remain hidden that continues to concern citizens who live near the contaminated area.

The EPA's Eric Delgado met with the public to explain what he said was EPA's final cleanup plan to rid the Big Tex site of its asbestos contamination. Delgado, the on-scene coordinator, said the EPA's investigation of the site had revealed contamination at 26 soil sampling grids, two buildings and seven of eleven “activity based sampling” locations.

“My mandate to the removal team is we're going to have zero visible dust,” said Delgado of the digging and removal process set to begin on November 10. The grids adjacent to those slated for removal will also be tested during the removal, said Delgado, which could result in upwards of 63 grids being potentially contaminated. Buildings 21 and 23 will undergo Indoor Clearance Sampling once they have been specially washed.

While the EPA's plan sounds comprehensive, a number of citizens who live near the affected area remain concerned.

“W.R. Grace covered up their tracks real well,” said Santiago Escobedo of the notorious company responsible for bringing in the asbestos from their Libby, Montana facility. “What else went on there that we don't know about?”

Delgado tried to reassure folks, saying “You guys gotta remember vermiculite was a commodity. They didn't want to waste it, they wanted to sell it.” Delgado said the best- case cleanup scenario would involve just the 26 identified grids, 1100 cubic yards of soil and completion before Thanksgiving. A worst-case scenario would involve all 63 grids, 2,750 cubic yards and a mid-December finish.

“We'll be working seven days a week, sun up to sun down,” said Delgado. While Big Tex is not technically a Superfund site, Delgado said EPA is cleaning it up with “Superfund authority”. He estimated the cleanup costs at roughly half a million dollars and said that EPA is footing the tab while the legal system continues to try and sort out who the PRP is (Party Responsible for Polluting). A community relations trailer will be located at the EPA command post at Blue Star to answer any questions that may arise.

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