, Port Arthur, Texas

January 29, 2013

Port Arthur pays for old Pleasure Island landfill

Brooke Crum
The Port Arthur News

PORT ARTHUR — The city of Port Arthur took steps Tuesday night to pay for a mess made on Pleasure Island 30 years ago.

The Port Arthur City Council approved the $286,041.10 the city would pay the Environmental Protection Agency and the state of Texas for cleanup of a hazardous waste site on Pleasure Island. That amount would cover the city’s cost for cleanup of the State Marine Superfund Site, according to the city resolution.

The city is just one entity “allegedly responsible” for repaying the EPA and the state of Texas for investigating and cleaning up the State Marine Superfund Site, the resolution states. Together, the entities have agreed to pay the EPA a little more than $1 million and Texas $70,000 for the response costs.

The State Marine Superfund Site is a former barge-cleaning operation and municipal landfill located on Old Yacht Club Road at the edge of Sabine Lake, according to an EPA site summary report. Underneath its 17 acres rests the remnants of the old Port Arthur landfill that opened in 1963. The city incinerated waste there in a burn pit until December 1969 and closed the landfill altogether in December 1974.

Following Texas Department of Health regulations, the city covered the landfill with two feet of “fine-grained fill material” in 1974 and leased the property to different companies. In 1981, the city sold most of the property to Pleasure Island Associates, according to the resolution.

State Welding and Marine Works and the Golden Triangle Shipyard opened for business on the island in 1973, according to the report. The barge-cleaning operators stored oil and wastewater from their cleaning tasks in unlined reservoirs approximately two acres in size. Wastewater was transferred from two aboveground storage tanks to the reservoirs, and some oil from the tanks was directed to an old ship docked on the land and used as an oil/water separator.

The EPA oversaw removal of waste materials that posed a risk to humans and the environment in August 2001, according to the report. During the removal, 26,000 gallons of waste oil, water, diesel fuel and kerosene; 3,800 gallons of heavy sludge; 27 drums; 28 compressed gas cylinders; and 14 batteries were disposed off-site. The 22 aboveground storage tanks were decontaminated with a degreaser solution and pressure washer, and the rinse water was disposed off-site.

In April 2007, the EPA issued a decision that stated no further action was necessary for the site and that it posed no threat to human health or the environment, according to the report. The site could be developed for industrial or commercial purposes.

A “Superfund” is the name of the environmental program created to address abandoned hazardous waste sites, according to the EPA website. It is also the title of the fund the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act of 1980 established.

That law was put in place after the discovery of toxic waste dumps like the Love Canal and Times Beach in the ‘70s, according to the EPA website. It enabled the EPA to clean up these areas and hold the polluters responsible for those cleanup costs.


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