Thank you to everyone who tuned in to our Jones Road community meeting on Tuesday! There’s a lot happening at this site right now, so we were so excited to have the opportunity to discuss it with you all.

For those of you who didn’t catch the meeting, you can find the recording on YouTube. Or keep reading for a summary of what we covered!

*Email info@txhea.org if you would like to participate in our water, soil, and air quality testing project.

Background on the Jones Road Ground Water Plume Superfund Site (1:08)

The Jones Road Site is underneath a shopping center on the 11,000 block of Jones Road. It is an underground plume of toxic contamination resulting from improper disposal of chemical solvents. The solvents came from a dry cleaning facility that previously operated out of this shopping center.

The map below indicates the location of the Site as well as the area in which drilling groundwater wells is prohibited and the area in which the EPA constructed a public water line. This map can be found in the recording at (1:30).

The Jones Road Site is currently in the remedial action phase of the Superfund process, meaning it is in the final stretch. The long-term cleanup plan is in the process of being executed, and once it’s complete, the site will move into maintenance and eventually be removed from the National Priority List.

Jones Road Timeline (4:46)

This Site was listed as a national priority back in 2003. The chemicals that were dumped into the environment by the dry cleaning facility resulted in a plume of contaminated groundwater that migrated over time, as well as toxic vapors that migrate up from the plume and result in contamination in the air.

In 2008, the EPA issued a Time Critical Removal Action (TCRA), which is essentially a temporary solution to protect public health while a long-term cleanup plan is developed. The TCRA for this Site was the construction of a public water line to which local properties could connect so that they didn’t need to rely on contaminated groundwater.

The Site oscillated between federal and state jurisdiction until 2010 when it was placed permanently under the control of the EPA (federal). A Record of Decision was released that same year outlining the long-term cleanup plan, and an amendment to that Record of Decision was created in 2017 when the EPA recognized that more needed to be done to adequately address the public health threat posed by this Site. 

Jones Road Site Five-Year Review (FYR) (6:15)

This year, the EPA is conducting its FYR of the Jones Road Site. This means the agency is evaluating the measures they have put in place to date to determine whether or not they are sufficient to protect the environment and public health. This is the time to address deficiencies and make an improved plan of action going forward.

To help ensure that the EPA is aware of all deficiencies at the Site during this FYR process, THEA requested and reviewed thousands of pages of documents pertaining to the Site’s history and the remedial steps that have been taken to date. 

Through our technical review, we have identified several concerns that we will be bringing to the EPA’s attention later this month.  Our primary concerns are as follows:

  • Community outreach
  • Defining the current geographic extent of the plume today 
  • Unmet remedial action objectives for the groundwater and air quality
  • Institutional controls and drilling restrictions

Community Outreach (10:21)

The EPA has conducted some outreach in the area west of the Jones Road Site to inform residents about groundwater contamination and provide them the option to connect to a public water supply. 

However, when our team at THEA conducts outreach in the area, we are still finding residents who are unaware of the contamination.

Additionally, data shows us that the plume has started migrating in a southward direction, but no outreach has taken place in that area.

As such, it is clear to us that the EPA has not exhausted its outreach capacity. They may have made some initial efforts, but if they truly want to act in accordance with their mission to protect the environment and human health, they would continue a robust outreach campaign until all affected residents have been informed about the contamination and encouraged to connect to public water.

Defining the Current Geographic Extent of the Plume (11:29)

Sampling data has shown that chemicals associated with the former dry cleaning facility have migrated underground to the Jones Road and FM 1960 area. This is an indication that the plume is not under control and may be affecting more properties than the EPA was previously aware of.

Yet the current map used to explain the geographic extent of the plume was published in 2010. 

We are asking the agency to create an updated map of the plume’s current geographic extent and migration patterns because it is impossible to communicate effectively about the potential dangers of this contamination if we cannot demonstrate accurately where it is located. It is also impossible to know which areas to conduct outreach in if we don’t have a clear delineation of where the plume is reaching.

Unmet Remedial Action Objectives (13:12)

During THEA’s technical review of the Site, we looked at the 2010 Record of Decision and the 2017 FYR. We compared the remedial objectives set out in those documents to what has actually occurred at the Site to determine whether or not the objectives were met. 

In 2010, the agency stated that its objective was to prevent or minimize further migration of contaminants from source material to groundwater. In 2017, they stated another objective which was to conduct a survey collecting information on groundwater use in the areas both west and to the south of the Site. The agency stated that “This survey would help inform the need for additional connections to the public water system, additional well plugging or additional sampling of private wells to ensure protectiveness of the remedy” (EPA 2017 Five-Year Review). Yet neither of these objectives have been met thus far according to our document review and conversations with local residents.

In 2008, homeowners and business owners to the west of the Site were given the opportunity to cap their wells and connect their properties to a public water supply. Only 51% of homeowners communicated with the agency and connected to public water and many property owners in the area never communicated with the agency. The EPA has stated in their own documents that ingestion of groundwater is the primary exposure pathway at this Site, so it is imperative that they continue outreach until they are able to cap all wells in the affected area.

Apart from groundwater, there are additional concerns regarding air quality. For one, the EPA previously tested air quality in the shopping plaza unit that formerly housed the dry cleaning company as well as the two adjacent units. All three came back with results indicating unsafe levels of the contaminants in the air. The EPA then installed a vapor mitigation system to reduce the levels of those harmful vapors, but they failed to test the rest of the units in the shopping center. Sampling best practices suggest that once a problem is identified, testing must continue until the outer extent of the problem is found. The EPA must test the remaining units in the shopping plaza to understand if human health is at risk for exposure.

Additionally, the vapor systems must be weatherized. In the freeze of February 2021, the soil vapor extraction system was damaged and inoperable for a period of time. With our changing climate, we will continue to see extreme weather events, so the EPA must ensure that flood events, severe cold, etc will not cause the system to be inoperable.

Institutional Controls and Drilling Restrictions (27:32)

Institutional controls are non-engineered instruments, such as administrative and legal controls that help minimize the potential for human exposure to contamination and/or protect the integrity of the remedy at a Superfund Site.

One of the institutional controls outlined in the Record of Decision for the Jones Road Site is that new landowners within the area of contamination are to be notified of the presence of contamination in the groundwater beneath their property and that existing landowners should be periodically reminded. In the 2017 FYR, the agency acknowledges that those institutional controls had not been implemented. 

THEA regularly conducts outreach in these neighborhoods, and we often meet homeowners who live above the plume and yet have never heard from the EPA. When we speak to these homeowners, renters, business owners, and employees, they are just learning about the Site for the first time. That’s telling us that the EPA is still not implementing this institutional control.

Interested in Testing the Water, Soil, or Air Quality on Your Property? Participate in our Sampling Project (33:38)

We’re currently looking for community members that are interested in participating in an environmental sampling project that we are embarking on in 2022 with our university partners. Between January and July of 2022, THEA will be out in the neighborhoods surrounding the Jones Road Site testing the groundwater, air, and soil for the presence of contaminants of concern. We’ll be using a piece of equipment called a GCMS, a portable piece of lab equipment that allows us to analyze real-time samples in the field. 

The goal of this sampling is to help us better understand where the contamination is today, if community members living in affected areas are being exposed, or if migration has resulted in new areas being affected that we aren’t yet aware of. 

Participants will be thanked for their time and participation with a $50 stipend. If you are interested in participating, please reach out to us at info@txhea.org

Question and Answer (37:43)