City of Lubbock Concerned over Possible Water Contamination - KCBD NewsChannel 11 Lubbock

11/28/05

City of Lubbock Concerned over Possible Water Contamination

The Environmental Protection Agency has turned on the heat to get Scrub-A-Dubb (SAD) in compliance. But some other environmentalist would argue the heat isn't hot enough.

In a two a two month investigation, NewsChannel 11 found out SAD was under investigation 20 years ago. The City of Lubbock reported this business to the Texas Commission on Environmental Equality. But in 2000, the TCEQ discovered they didn't have proper waste management units to handle SAD. They turned it over to the feds. The EPA has had the case for four years and they say the business is still not in compliance. Is this a case of a stalling process? We wanted to know why nothing has been done.

SAD owner Bill Phillips has spent that last 30 years building his business. "What we do over here is confidential. We've made peace with the EPA and that's good enough," he told us.

But it's not confidential. NewsChannel 11 uncovered information about what exactly is going on there. Mr. Phillips son told us they are rinsing out transmission fluids, motor oil, and anti-freeze that has been left inside the bottom of these barrels. 30 years of that kind of business has city environmentalist Dan Dennison very worried about the quality of the ground.

"If you have a level of concern and you have a high degree of risk to the environment, you would want your agency with the most influential and the most authority to be involved," said Dennison.

The EPA took over the case in 2001. They tested the soil that year and found hazardous materials. "We did an inspection report and provided that to the facility," said Cynthia Fanning, EPA spokeswoman out of the Dallas region.

Two years later, the EPA issued an order for Mr. Phillips to clean-up his site and he had 180 days to do so. EPA says the owner did not follow the order and sent him another letter. Still, nothing had been done.

"We got a request for an extension for another 180 days which we granted in July of 2005," said Fanning.

The EPA says their job is to protect the environment and public health. But says this case was not a priority to them. Fanning says because there was no eminent danger to public health. "We have a number of enforcement priorities and our resources were dedicated to other priorities during that time," she said.

But Dennison believes there is a significant impact to public health. "There is ground water in the area. It is relatively shallow. We believe there is an impact," he said.

In a May 2005 letter, Mr. Phillips wrote to the EPA. He claims how he is collecting and disposing wastewater rinse in compliance with state and federal regulations. "What's that big puddle out there?" asked NewsChannel 11. "Rainwater," he told us. "Your son told me it was rinse water," we said. "Well, yeah, some of that too," he said.

He also told the EPA the oil in the pit area is removed by a licensed waste oil collecting company. The EPA says Mr. Phillips has not provided proof that his claims are true. "We are concerned the agency has been slow in getting the information its requesting. Right now, we have a request into the agency for them to turn up the heat a little bit and get some compliance," said Dennison.

Mr. Phillips has until January to fulfill the clean-up order. The EPA says they will continue to work with Mr. Phillips because they say putting a facility in bankruptcy doesn't help anyone. Because then the clean-up could end up being the taxpayer's responsibility. Dennison says the clean-up could cost somewhere in the millions.

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