DENISON, Texas (KXII) Last year, the land that remained of W.J. Smith Wood Preserving Company off Morton Street was put up for auction, with a starting bid of $300,000.
“There were some potential buyers that came forward but they were unable to strike a deal,” City Manager Judson Rex said.
WJS was a company that treated railroad ties and wood, like utility poles and fence posts, with creosote from 1909 to 1991, leaving a site full of hazardous chemicals behind.
After being declared a Superfund site by the federal government, Katy Industries spent more than $10 million to clean it up.
The Environmental Protection Agency determined the property was “Ready for Reuse” back in December 2016; 71 acres available for residential, the rest would have to be commercial.
Little did they know a new problem was creeping in.
“I guess every place has to have a place to start,” Denison resident Dathan Wiley told News12. “Especially with the ignorance of the time where they might not have known the everlasting effects of that.”
The Environmental Protection Agency found out polluted groundwater from the MKT Tie Plant Lagoons site, west of WJS across Lum Lane, is moving southeast onto WJS property and the city baseball and soccer fields.
Environmental officials are worried about what the toxic plume would mean for future development, saying vapors could intrude into any structures built on the properties.
Rex said the groundwater problem on the MKT property has been around for decades.
“They have a mitigation and monitoring plans in place including some monitoring wells to check the groundwater,” Rex said.
Sherri Cole lives across the street from the next monitoring well in the plume’s path.
She said she had no idea the contaminated water was headed her way.
“Get the water tested. If it’s contaminated they need to take care of it,” Cole said.
But right now, there’s no plan to get rid of it.
Union Pacific Railroad owns the MKT Tie Plant Lagoons Site. They told us they acquired the historic site as part of a merger many years ago.
They released this statement to us on Friday:
We are aware of the contamination concerns at the site and are actively engaged with TCEQ and the city of Denison to monitor the situation.
Through coordination with TCEQ we have established monitoring wells on the site and at locations off-site to routinely collect water samples and stay informed regarding any potential migration of the underground plume.
At this time, there are no concerns regarding risk of contamination to drinking water in the area. We are working with the city to develop plans to prevent future concerns as well.
Union Pacific prides itself on being a responsible member of the community and environmentally conscientious. As such, we will continue to be actively engaged at this site.
Rex said the issue absolutely does not affect the city’s drinking water, who gets its water from Lake Randell and Lake Texoma.