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EPA's Region 6 Office

Serving: Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, and 66 Tribal Nations

Port Arthur Environmental Profile
Port Arthur, Texas Westside Community

Your Land: Key Findings

  • The residential land of the Westside community does not have any known contamination and is considered safe for gardening.
  • EPA concluded that vapor intrusion is unlikely in the Westside community. Vapor intrusion refers to pollutants moving from below the ground and in groundwater into air in neighborhoods or homes.
Port Arthur Environmental Profile

Residential and Industrial Land

Human activities are the cause of most land contamination. Some activities that cause such contamination include: old homes with lead-based paint that are abandoned or torn down; industrial or commercial facilities that use or dispose of toxic and hazardous waste; the addition of chemicals (such as fertilizers) to land; and accidental spills of waste or chemicals (such as, petroleum).

In Jefferson County there are:
  • 2 Superfund sites, 2 in the city of Port Arthur.
  • 17 RCRA sites in Jefferson County; 5 of those sites are in the City of Port Arthur.
  • 19 officially listed Brownfields sites, 17 in the city of Port Arthur.
  • 257 petroleum storage tanks registered with TCEQ and 52 of these tanks are active.
  • 107 petroleum storage tanks listed with TCEQ's Leaking Petroleum Storage Tank (LPST) database. All leaks have been addressed except the tanks at Mark's Grocery (Facility ID #0043773; LPST ID: 117419), which is located at 4508 Procter Street in Port Arthur. You can search the LPST online at: www.tceq.texas.gov/remediation/pst_rp/pstquery.html#City

Hazard Potential Impacts to Land

Environmental Media Current Status
Residential/Community Land There is no known contamination of land in areas with unrestricted access that presents unacceptable risk. The potential for vapors from groundwater to rise through residential land is considered to be negligible
Industrial Land Many industries are currently undertaking corrective action for on-site land and groundwater that is contaminated. Access is restricted to these sites.

Vapor Intrustion

The Westside community is bounded on two sides by large refineries with land that is contaminated with petroleum wastes. EPA conducted a study to understand the potential impacts of the contamination from these and other adjacent industries on the Westside community via vapor intrusion pathways.

Vapor intrusion is a way that chemicals, such as petroleum, can volatize (change to a vapor) from contaminated land or ground water into an overlying building or the air. The chemical vapors move through the land and enter buildings where they contaminate the indoor air. Vapor intrusion is one way that humans may be exposed to contamination from spills on the ground or from leaking underground storage tanks.

EPA looked at several potential vapor intrusion pathways:

  1. A shallow aquifer could potentially move petroleum waste contaminants from refineries to the Westside community. Figure 1 shows a model of the area, where there is a possible pathway down into the aquifer and over to the community. The probability of this happening is low because there is a thick layer of clay over the shallow aquifer that acts as a barrier to restrict the movement of petroleum waste into the aquifer and also greatly impedes contamination from traveling upward from the aquifer to the Westside community. We also reason that shallow groundwater is being drawn away from the community, not under it, by deeper industrial water wells.

    Figure 1. Model of the Possible Vapor Intrusion Pathway Evaluated by EPA

    Click to enlarge

  2. Surface land could be a pathway in areas where petroleum storage tanks or pipes are (or were previously) located near houses or schools. There are two such areas:
    • Valero's Crude Triangle Tank Farm, which is not considered to be of concern because it has above-ground pipes (so leaks would be easily seen and cleaned up), it is not located near areas of concern, and the natural clay soil limits the movement of contaminants.
    • Motiva's Former Tank Farm, located between Thomas Boulevard and 13th Street. The tanks were removed between 1995 and 2005. Part of the tank farm is located fairly close to apartment buildings. However, there are no documented releases and the natural clay soil would limit the underground flow of any contamination.

EPA concluded that vapor intrusion is unlikely in the Westside community.

EPA expects to issue a final version of its Vapor Intrusion Guidance by November 2012. The document will present EPA's technical and policy recommendations for subsurface vapor intrustion evaluation.

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