We think that an area that contains potentially cancer-causing chemicals and is expanding in the water table beneath neighborhoods ought to have a really BIG SIGN.  So far, the EPA doesn’t agree.

Back in June THEA wrote to the agency with a number of concerns about the Jones Road Ground Water Plume Superfund Site. One of those concerns was that there was inadequate signage to warn people about the potential hazard, especially since the neighborhood is changing and more residents now speak Spanish or Vietnamese. 

The EPA responded last month and agreed to put up signs in Vietnamese, which is good. But the agency also said signs in English and Spanish already were posted by the soil vapor extraction unit, just east of the source of the chemicals. That’s a problem.

To show why, THEA’s staff went to the site armed with a trusty tape measure. What we found was that the sign is too small and violates the government’s own regulations on Superfund signage.  It can also be hard to see from the road and half hidden by foliage. And even though the site’s plume of toxic chemicals is under a commercial strip mall, the sign behind the stores and invisible to shoppers.

We don’t think you should have to get close to a Superfund site to read that you are at risk from the toxic chemicals it holds.

The EPA did share some very positive news. THEA had requested that the agency do indoor air testing in the commercial buildings where the drycleaning company that dumped the chemicals that caused the pollution was located. The EPA reports that it will do indoor testing in other parts of the building this month. 

We also have been requesting that the EPA do additional testing to determine whether the underground plume of hazardous chemicals is spreading to contaminate more neighborhoods around Jones Road. The EPA responded, saying it reached out to homeowners for permission to do additional sampling in 2019 and has been reporting any new results directly to the homeowners.

That is where we have our deepest concerns. The EPA has simply not done enough community outreach in an area where more than 80% of the residents identify as Hispanic, Latino, Black, or Asian. Our own area surveys indicate that many residents moved into the area since the site was added to the Superfund list and many are not even aware there is a hazard. The EPA has never said how many additional properties it has sampled and, while the letter says it reached out to residents and offered to test homes in 2019, the EPA had said in the past that no one had volunteered. 

THEA has sent a written response to the latest letter from the EPA and will continue to push for better community engagement and clearer warnings that the danger from toxic contamination at Jones Road is far from solved.