EPA takes charge of hazardous waste site in North Lubbock

Published: Aug. 30, 2011 at 8:18 PM CDT|Updated: Dec. 15, 2014 at 1:20 AM CST
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LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - A former business facility is being called the greatest environmental concern to the city of Lubbock, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

The federal agency came to Lubbock on Tuesday to begin clean-up efforts at the former Scrub-A-Dubb Barrel Company on the city's north side.

It is the same company KCBD NewsChannel 11 has investigated before over its handling of hazardous material.

The EPA says the toxic waste at the former business is a great concern to public health, welfare, and the environment.

Scrub-A-Dubb has been closed for awhile and that's why federal officials can now investigate the site.

The EPA says they had looked into allegations against the owner before, but they were told by management they would comply with requests and guidelines.

We could see the barrels even before we get inside the former facility with EPA's on-site coordinator Greg Fife.

"Out of the 60,000 [barrels] we have on site we think there are between 2,000 and 4,000 that have significant hazardous waste in them," Fife said.

Scrub-A-Dubb would buy the barrels or 'drums' from other companies to clean and re-sell. Fife says they were only supposed to purchase empty containers.

"The ones on their side don't usually pose a big problem but usually the ones standing upright those are the ones that typically have something in them," said Fife.

Two dozen barrels have already tested positive for toxic material. While at the site, we found a white barrel with a dark liquid. We asked Fife what was inside.

"We don't know. That's one of the things we're trying to figure out," Fife responded.

There was a pit on the site full of what Fife called a 'witches brew'. The EPA says that liquid ran off the property.

"He's put up a dirt berm years ago to try and stop it and it would flow this way towards the draw or the waterways," Fife said.

On a note from the EPA to nearby residents and city leaders they write 'hazardous substances have overflowed the vats and flowed off the Site into nearby Blackwater Draw and subsequently through Mackenzie recreational park. The runoff is easily accessible to children at play in the park, golfers, and the park's wildlife.'

Fife said because of the drought, they are unsure how much rainwater runoff may have carried the hazardous waste.

Near the pit we could see the effects of the material on the soil.

"Some of this dirt is horribly contaminated. It's worse than anything I've seen on most of the sites I've been on. There's no way to really tell what's underneath until we get rid of them," Fife said.

Contaminated groundwater was also a concern for Fife, but he says it may take a long time before they're able to determine the waste's effects.

The EPA's cleanup and testing is expected to take 5 months, and will cost about $3.5 million in federal dollars; a high price for a high concern.

"Any bio system that exists, there's something that can affect it from samples we have taken," said Fife.

So far there have been no reports of any injuries as a result of the material at the facility. Fife urges folks to stay away from the facility because substances can be dangerous if touched or inhaled.

According to Fife, the owner has been somewhat cooperative and Fife says depending on what they find they could be liable for cleanup costs.

KCBD was unable to reach the owner of the facility for a comment.

©2011 KCBD NewsChannel 11