Port Arthur News
PORT ARTHUR —
Work on a major project to construct a wood pellet storage facility at the Port of Port Arthur has been halted due to the discovery of contaminated soil.
The discovery led port commissioners to hold an emergency meeting on Thursday in which they hired an environmental consultant, RPS, to manage the situation.
German Pellets, touted as the largest manufacturer of wooden pellets in Europe, started construction on a storage and loading facility at the port about a month ago. While construction was under way a contractor discovered some contamination below the surface of the property, Port Attorney Scott Sheldon said.
“We didn’t want to delay the project. This is a huge project that will create jobs,” Sheldon said. “And, in addition, we wanted to make sure there were no other issues that might create health or safety problems for any of the workers out there. At today’s (Thursday’s) meeting the commissioners approved a contract with an environental consultant to take care of excavation and proper disposal of the contaminated soil.”
Although commissioners declared the issue an emergency for meeting purposes, no one was aware of the magnitude of it and all were concerned it might slow the progress of the project, he added.
The port may likely have inherited the environmental problem years ago when they acquired the property from Gulfport Shipyard.
Sheldon said the port worked with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to devise a remediation plan that called for that piece of land not to be disturbed. The port, he added, was not aware the project would encroach on the piece of property “which is a small portion of what was then 55 acres the port had acquired.”
The discovery was made as the contractor was digging in the area.
“It (contamination) was several feet down and would not have been disturbed,” he said.
Sheldon did not have a contract cost but said it will be based on the number of cubic yards removed and the number of roll-off boxes used. Normal construction equipment will be used and the remediation is expected to be completed by next Wednesday or Thursday. The attorney said he does not know what type of contaminant is on the land or how much.
The wood pellet project, at an estimated $12 to $15 million, is expected to bring jobs to the area and pump money into the local economy.
The contract with German Pellets has already led to a series of construction jobs at the port and in Woodville, acording to a story that ran in the Feb. 22 edition of The Port Arthur News. Other jobs associated with the projecft include truck drivers, longshoremen, tugboat operators, shipping agents and silo and conveyor belt operators.