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Ceremony Signals Renewal in Smithville

Release Date: 6/5/1997
Contact Information: For more information contact the Office of External Affairs at (214) 665-2200.

Local, state and federal officials gathered Thursday in Smithville, Texas, to celebrate the cleanup of commercial property previously contaminated with hazardous waste. Texas Natural Resources Conservation Commission (TNRCC) presented a Certificate of Completion to the city.

The late morning ceremony included local elected officials and officials from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and TNRCC. The agencies joined forces with the city to clean the 2-acre site half a block from downtown Smithville.

"Because of President Clinton's Brownfields Initiative this property has become productive after sitting idle for seven years. The cleanup of this site shows what can be done when EPA, the state and the local community work together to protect our environment and our health," EPA's Brownfields Project Manager Don Williams said.

The General Accounting Office estimates that there are about 300,000 Brownfields sites in the United States. About 20,000 of those sites are in the five states, Oklahoma, New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana and Arkansas, that comprise EPA's Region 6.

EPA works with local and state agencies and private groups to increase local citizen involvement and to speed redevelopment of Brownfields sites. This partnership helps communities revitalize unproductive properties and return them to the tax rolls.

Marhil Manufacturing Company abandoned the Smithville property in 1990 leaving drums of hazardous chemicals, a mound of foundry sand and contaminated soil. The metal fabricator declared bankruptcy shortly afterward.

In 1995, Smithville joined TNRCC's Voluntary Cleanup Program, which was authorized by EPA's Superfund program. In the spring of 1996, the city contacted EPA to assess the extent and nature of the contamination and, in less than 30 days, the agency had begun on-site sampling.

Analysis of the samples revealed a hazardous brew of toxic chemicals and heavy metals including toluene, xylene, lead, zinc and iron in the abandoned drums. Samples from the foundry sand and soil contained elevated levels of arsenic, copper, lead, mercury, zinc and other hazardous materials.

Cleanup began in the summer of 1996. The drums, foundry sand and contaminated soil were removed to licensed disposal facilities.

EPA also helped Smithville obtain a grant from the U.S. Commerce Department to perform a study of the site and prepare a marketing plan and materials. The Smithville Industrial Development Council has already placed the site's first tenant. The business makes furniture from laminated panels and employs from 10 to 20 people.

"The President's Brownfields program shows how new common sense approaches can be the engine that drives economic redevelopment. Restoring contaminated property goes hand-in-hand with bringing life and economic vitality back to a community," Mr. Williams said.