Grand Prairie—The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) hosted an informational meeting via Zoom on Thursday, Feb. 17 about soil and groundwater contamination, which affects a neighborhood in northeast Grand Prairie.
The contamination was caused by improper waste disposal by a former Delfasco Forge facility, which manufactured munitions and ceased operation in 1998. The improper waste disposal led to the presence of trichloroethylene (TCE) in the soil and groundwater. It affects an area, which contains about 80 homes.
“This is a public meeting for the neighborhood with the Environmental Protection Agency to hear about the underground plume left by the former Delfasco Forge facility; what homes are affected and what the possible intermediate and long term solutions are to mediate that plume,” Amy Sprinkles, communications director for Grand Prairie, said.
Sprinkles explained the plume is a balloon of contamination underground. Residents in the area should not use ground wells, but drinking water is unaffected, because it comes from the city and is separate from groundwater.
However, TCE vapors can become airborne. Hope Schroeder, remedial project manager for the EPA, encouraged residents in the affected area to allow the EPA to test their air, and if needed, install an air mitigation system. Only the homeowner can make this request.
“TCE evaporates very quickly when it’s directly exposed to air outside,” Sprinkles said. “The biggest thing is that it’s getting trapped in the home.”
Sprinkles said about 30 homes in the area already have an air mitigation system. According to the EPA’s website, the first vapor mitigation systems were installed in 2008.
“From the city’s perspective, we hope we can encourage our residents to open their doors for testing of their air,” Sprinkles said. “They can choose whether to put the vapor traction system on their home or not.”
At the meeting, Schroeder said the EPA is reviewing a proposed plan to remove the contamination using a vacuum-like device. There will be another public meeting in the spring to allow residents to give feedback on the plan. All public comments will be considered as they move forward.
Schroeder said this issue was added to the EPA’s National Priorities List in 2018. Since then, the EPA has attempted to inform residents about the issue through phone calls, community meetings, and offers to install the air mitigation systems.
Although the meeting was held over Zoom, some citizens gathered at the Tony Shotwell Life Center.
An unnamed woman at the center spoke up. Her voice broke as she spoke. She asked why she was just now hearing about this and asked for a sense of urgency. She was concerned about how this could affect the health of her family and mentioned her daughter has chronic fatigue.
“There are people who have been working for years to try to get this resolved,” Jessica Price, information specialist for Texas Department of State Health Services, said in response to the question. “I’m hopeful people as passionate as you and other people there can share with your community that if you’re in this area that EPA is concerned about, you need to get this mitigation system. We appreciate you being here, and I appreciate your emotion. It’s completely understandable.
“In the past, these chemicals were used as anesthetics. In high amounts, it can make people drowsy, cause headaches, dizziness and nausea. In extreme cases, [cause] coma and death. TCE can cause liver and kidney cancers, so the most at risk population is pregnant women. Heart defects in developing babies can happen in lower concentrations.”
Price and Schroeder repeatedly encouraged attendees to have their air tested, so they can know if TCE is a concern.
“This is why the EPA has come to you and said ‘we’re concerned about this,’” Price said. “Know we are concerned about it too. Please get a mitigation system. If your friends and neighbors are not here, please let them know they do need to contact EPA and get this mitigation system, so we can stop exposures.”