EPA Orders Union Pacific to Assess Contamination in Houston’s Greater Fifth Ward Neighborhood
DALLAS, TEXAS (Feb. 27, 2023) — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced an Administrative Settlement Agreement and Order on Consent (AOC) with Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR). The consent order compels UPRR to investigate and evaluate potential contamination in and around the former wood preserving facility in the Greater Fifth Ward area of Houston, Texas. UPRR will conduct the investigation and evaluation and EPA will oversee their work. The field work is expected to begin in early Spring 2023.
The AOC includes a statement of work that UPRR must comply with. Authorized under EPA’s Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act, the statement of work requires UPRR to conduct several actions, including:
- On- and off-site soil sampling
- Vapor intrusion investigation at potentially affected residences
- Evaluating the off-site storm sewer system for potential contamination associated with the site
- Developing a proposal supporting EPA’s community involvement plan for the site
- Conducting a risk evaluation
EPA, the city of Houston, Harris County, and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) will use the results of the investigation to inform the next steps for engagement at and around the site. Additional ongoing investigation and cleanup of the UPRR property is being conducted by UPRR under a TCEQ Industrial and Hazardous Waste Permit.
“Houston’s Fifth Ward and Kashmere Gardens neighborhoods have experienced generations of harm. Today’s action represents a major step forward for people living in this area. We intend to use every tool at our disposal for this community,” said Regional Administrator Dr. Earthea Nance. “Before any significant cleanup work can be performed, it is essential that we know exactly what we’re facing. We thank the Biden Administration for their commitment towards improving public health and the environment.”
“The city of Houston is committed to advocating on behalf of the people living in Kashmere Gardens who have been and are still being impacted by this site,” said Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner. “We welcome and appreciate the EPA's direct involvement and oversight of the actions by UPRR to do what is in the best interests of this community.”
The Union Pacific Railroad Houston Wood Preserving Works site (UPRR) is just south of the Kashmere Gardens community within the Fifth Ward of Houston, Texas. Formerly owned and operated by Southern Pacific Railroad, the site ceased operating as a wood preserving facility in 1984. It was acquired by UPRR in 1997 through a merger with Southern Pacific. Contamination associated with the former wood treating operations has been identified both on and off-site, including creosote contamination in groundwater. The groundwater investigation and cleanup are being addressed under the TCEQ permit, and groundwater is not used as a drinking water source for the surrounding community.
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