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It has been nearly two decades since the Jones Road shopping center was put on the National Priorities List. Since then, entities such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency have attempted to clean up the affected area. SOURCES: U.S. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY, AGENCY FOR TOXIC SUBSTANCES DISEASE REGISTRY, TEXAS DEPARTMENT OF STATE HEALTH SERVICES/COMMUNITY IMPACT
government authority to clean it up. Bell Dry Cleaners operated at the site from 1988-2002. Officials discov- ered dry-cleaning solvents had leaked into storm drains in the early 2000s, contaminating the soil, indoor air and groundwater, according to the EPA. “Instead of collecting the product or the waste in drums, it was going to the ground,” said Raji Josiam, a reme- dial project manager who oversees the site’s cleanup activity for the EPA. Exposure to these chemicals can cause a range of symptoms—from headaches and organ damage to cancer or death. The EPA has imple- mented cleanup tactics over time. Despite the efforts, a five-year review released by the EPA in September con- cluded cleanup goals were “not pro- tective” because residents to the west in Edgewood Estates and Evergreen Woods continue to use private wells and therefore, could still be exposed to contaminated groundwater. “The remedial action objective of preventing exposure to contaminated groundwater at unacceptable risk levels will not be achieved until the remaining affected private well users connect to the public water supply,” EPA Region 6 Press Officer Joe Robledo said in an email. However, patronizing the 12 busi- nesses in the shopping center— including restaurants, a book store, dog groomer and nail salon, among others—is safe following remediation, Josiam said at an EPA meeting Feb. 27. But local advocacy nonprofit Texas Health and Environment Alliance, or THEA, is urging the EPA to take addi- tional action. The group has worked since 2017 to increase awareness about this site among residents within 2 miles of the shopping center, Assis- tant Director Rachel Jordan said. She said she was surprised that in
Bioremediation injections are initiated to help degrade contaminants at the site, leading to 97%-99% contaminant reduction.
A public water line is installed, and
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality detects contaminants in a public well supplying drinking water near the shopping center.
144 homes and businesses in the affected area are connected.
Bell Dry Cleaners operates out of a shopping center on Jones Road in Houston. 2000-02
The site is added to the National Priorities List. Harris County commissioners approve the recommended well drilling restrictions around the affected area.
A cleanup action plan for the site is established.
Because these residents are out of the White Oak Bend district, they would be subject to 50% higher fees. Robledo said few homeowners showed interest in the water line when the EPA reached out in 2019 and 2020 because of these higher costs and because some private wells showed no contaminants when tested. In addition to connecting well users to public water, the EPA regularly tests contamination levels at and near the site. A vapor mitigation system brought indoor air back to safe levels in 2018 when samples at the shopping center showed cause for concern. In 2016 and 2018, bioremediation injections of bacteria into the ground were 97%-99% effective in breaking down contaminants, Josiam said. The EPA also installed a soil vapor extraction system in 2019 behind the shopping center, which Robledo said addresses the contamination source that is affecting the groundwater and prevents indoor air contamination. Calls for further action Harris County Precinct 3 Commis- sioner Tom Ramsey partnered with THEA earlier this year to call on the EPA to take further action at the site. “I think it’s time that we move
CHEMICALS FOUND ON-SITE The contaminants of concern are known to cause headaches and dizziness, birth defects, and organ damage. High levels of exposure may lead to cancer or death.
Reducing contamination In 2008, the EPA connected 144 well users, including the shopping center, to the public water supply that is unaffected by the chemicals. “The remaining property owners at that time, they said, ‘No, we don’t want to sign up. We are happy with our well water.’ So they did not sign up,” Josiam said. “And here we are again today; we are facing the same issue.” Robledo said at least 50 proper- ties in the affected area still rely on private wells; 160 are connected to the water line; and 65 properties are vacant lots, share a water line connec- tion with adjacent properties or have an unknown well status. As of press time, the EPA asked well users to sign up by March 31 to be connected to the water line through the White Oak Bend Municipal Utility District. Initial capital costs would be cov- ered by federal funding, but home- owners would be responsible for subsequent monthly water fees.
Tetrachloroethene (PCE): removes grease from metal parts and is a dry-cleaning solvent Trichloroethylene (TCE): solvent used in industrial processes and in some paint removers and adhesives Dichloroethene (DCE): a highly-flammable, colorless liquid with a harsh odor Vinyl chloride (VC): made when other substances, including PCE and TCE, are broken down
the five-year review, the EPA’s first milestone date for future solutions was Dec. 31, 2024. “For a site where they’re saying that the remedy in place is not protective of human health or the environment, … [that] seemed very unreasonable,” Jordan said.
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