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City staff recommends complete cleanup of old dump

Wednesday, April 8, 2009 by Bill McCann

City environmental officials are taking on another job of cleaning up trash from the past – this time in the city-owned Barton Creek greenbelt.


Consultants to the city recently completed an investigation of an abandoned 3.6-acre dump just east of Loop 360 on a steep slope of the Barton Creek greenbelt behind the Toys R Us store in the Brodie Oaks Shopping Center. Not much is known about the dump, except that it was apparently used for disposal of household trash in the 1940s and 1950s, when the area was well out of the city limits, according to city staff. In those days, rural residents and businesses often found a convenient hole or gully to dump wastes.


Investigations commissioned by the city beginning in the 1980s have identified a number of such sites that have required remediation. A report issued in 1984 was the first comprehensive survey of known active and abandoned landfills in the city. While the Loop 360 dump did not show up in that report, it was listed in a 2004-2005 update. The site was earmarked for additional study, including soil and surface and groundwater testing.


While the Loop 360 dump is not considered an immediate hazard, it is experiencing erosion. Glass, metal and other wastes are exposed on the surface in an area where the public uses the greenbelt. Elevated levels of lead and antimony were found in the soil. Low levels of antimony, a chemical element found in a variety of products such as paint and batteries, were detected in Barton Creek and a tributary. The site is uphill from Barton Creek.


After studying various alternatives, city staff is proposing a complete cleanup – digging up the wastes, replacing the soil and revegetating the site. The dump is relatively shallow, ranging about one to six-feet deep. The site is overgrown in places, with heavy underbrush and large trees.


Designing the project, getting required city and state permits and doing the construction, could take two to three years, according to city staff. The initial estimated price tag is $2.1 million. The money would come from a special city Abandoned Landfill Remediation Fund supported by three city departments.


Chuck Lesniak, environmental policy program manager for the Watershed Protection and Development Review Department, briefed the Environmental Board on the project Wednesday. The board, in turn, voted unanimously to support city staff’s plan with several conditions, including keeping the board updated on the project, maintaining monitoring wells on site for at least 10 years, and revegetating the site with native plants appropriate to the area.


While the complete cleanup is the most expensive alternative, it would eliminate the possibility of future risks to the public or to the environment, Lesniak said.


Lesniak told In Fact Daily that staff has informed the City Council about the project and hopes to have an engineering firm in place to begin design work within 30 days. The firm is being selected from a rotation list of engineering companies pre-approved by the council. When the project is ready for construction, that contract will require Council approval, he said.

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