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Waste Program Successes

The Fort Bend Children's Discovery Center

The former Imperial suger refinery building and tanks.Located on the grounds of a former sugar refinery in the Container Warehouse, the Fort Bend Children’s Discovery Center (FBCDC) now serves as a focal point for the children and parents of Sugarland and Fort Bend County. The FBCDC, which opened in May 2016, is located on the first floor of the building and offers a variety of child-centered exhibits, special events and educational outreach events. The Sugar Land Heritage Foundation and the City of Sugar Land Convention and Visitors Bureau occupy the second floor of the building which features a museum of the history of Sugar Land, a gift shop, and the visitors center. Plans are underway to transform this iconic site into a larger proposed mixed-use lifestyle center that will include upscale retail, restaurant and office space, a boutique hotel, and a multifamily residential complex.

Children outside the discovery center.

The history of the site is quite unique going back to the mid 1800’s when it was utilized for sugar milling and processing operations. The Imperial Sugar Company operated at the site until 2003 when the plant closed. The site remained vacant for number of years, until efforts were made to redevelop the property.

The long-term use of the property as a sugar refinery had left behind contamination in soil and groundwater. This contamination, which included metals, total petroleum hydrocarbons, volatile organic compounds, polychlorinated biphenyl and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons required assessment and cleanup before the property could be brought back to productive use.

In July 2012, the site was entered into the Voluntary Cleanup Program and after considerable remediation efforts, was determined to meet cleanup requirements for petroleum storage tank (PST) sites and the Texas Risk Reduction Program standards. Large quantities of soils were excavated and removed from the site. Samples collected afterwards confirmed the site met standards for residential land use, and a final certificate of completion was issued in July 2015.

The FBCDC was approached to consider operating at the former Imperial Sugar Mill and a capital campaign was started to raise the money to redevelop the site. With the efforts of the community and contributions from individuals and foundations, they were able to raise $4.6 million. Of that amount, $2.1 million was used for the refurbishing of the site which incorporated the silos from the refinery and the building of the new exhibits. The FBCDC has been able to serve more than 102,341 children and their families on-site and 7,103 with educational outreach programs. The center has 5 exhibits currently and are working on opening their 6th exhibit.


The Mosaic on Broadway

The view of the Mosaic on Broadway, storefront, mixed-use development with apartments and cycling studio. Buildings are painted in shades of orange.
Just three blocks away from the San Antonio River and inside San Antonio’s historic Broadway Corridor, a once vacant lot has become a vibrant mixed-use development with apartments and a cycling studio. The property was unused for many years despite its central location due to its former use that included an automotive fueling station, dry cleaners, automotive dealership, and an automotive service facility that left behind contamination in the soil and groundwater. The identified chemicals of concern were Total Petroleum Hydrocarbons, Volatile Organic Compounds, Semi-Volatile Organic Compounds, and metals.

In March 2007, the site entered the Voluntary Cleanup Program and soil and groundwater sampling were conducted. The program oversaw the completion of the response actions and determined the site met the Texas Risk Reduction Program standards. A Certificate of Completion was issued for residential land use in March 2008. The construction of the mixed-use building was completed in 2014. The 120 apartment units and storefront commercial space in the building provide density in the urban core of San Antonio, which was rated the fastest-growing city in America from 2016 to 2017. In addition to providing housing and recreation, redeveloping the land increased the City’s tax revenue.


Arizona Department of Environmental Quality Visits TCEQ

StaffIn front of SAWS ASR well no. 9. From left to right, Matt Ivers (ADEQ), Lorrie Council (TCEQ), David Murry (TCEQ), Jerry Smits (ADEQ), Ryan Fitzpatrick (ADEQ)

The Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) requested to meet with TCEQ to learn more about the agency’s Underground Injection Control (UIC) Program. ADEQ has intention to apply to EPA for primacy of the UIC Program in Arizona and this trip was part of a data-gathering effort. After meeting in TCEQ’s Austin offices with representatives of UIC Permits Section staff and OLS/Environmental Law Division staff to dialog about the UIC Program, the ADEQ participated in field visits to two UIC permitted facilities in South Texas.

The first visit was on June 11, 2018 to San Antonio Water System (SAWS) H2Oaks facility southeast of San Antonio. SAWS operates the largest active Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR) facility in the nation at this site and also recently began operations of a new Reverse Osmosis (RO) water treatment facility for brackish groundwater produced at the H2Oaks site. The ASR wells are authorized under a UIC Class V authorization and the RO drinking water treatment residuals are disposed in two deep wells registered under TCEQ’s UIC Class I General Permit.

The second visit was on June 12, 2018 to the Energy Fuels Alta Mesa In-Situ Uranium Mine in Brooks County. The TCEQ has issued the Alta Mesa facility a UIC Class III mine area permit, seven UIC Class III production area (PA) authorizations, and a UIC aquifer exemption associated with the mined ore zone (the exemption was also approved by EPA Region 6). The Alta Mesa mine also has a radioactive materials license issued by the TCEQ.

Trinity River Audubon Center

Pileated Woodpecker. American Kestral. Painted Bunting. These are just a few of the almost 300 species of birds that you can find at the Trinity River Audubon Center in southeast Dallas. But it wasn’t always that way. The land was once a sand and gravel mine located adjacent to a residential neighborhood called Deepwood. After the mine ceased operations, the mine pits were used as illegal dumps until the mid-1990s. The City of Dallas entered the site into the Voluntary Cleanup Program (VCP) in 2002. The remedy selected was to excavate a portion of the property. In addition, cap and continually monitor methane on the remainder of the former landfill while restoring the native grass prairie. Two large tanks, a rusted 50 gallon drumn, old shells of cars and various other debris litter the grounds.

In 2005, the Audubon Society finalized an agreement to run an interpretive birding center at the site. Trinity Trust (now Trinity River Conservancy) raised money to build the facility, and secured internationally renowned architect, Antoine Predock, to design the center. The city broke ground in 2006. The VCP certificates of completion for the site were issued in 2007, and the construction of the center was completed in 2008. The “green building” was built using low impact construction materials and became the first Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED)-certified project constructed by the City of Dallas Parks and Recreation Department.

Over 80,000 visitors a year visit the Trinity River Audubon Center. The center hosts programs for kids and citizen scientists, all while restoring the native vegetation to provide habitat for birds of the Great Trinity Forest.

From Eyesore to Art Destination: The Transformation of Lost Pines Art Center

Two large tanks, a rusted 50 gallon drumn, old shells of cars and various other debris litter the grounds.The cars in front of the mechanic shop were almost as rusty as the abandoned grain silos themselves. Although this piece of property was located centrally in Bastrop, concerns over potential environmental liability had up to this point precluded redevelopment. But for the Lost Pines Art League of Bastrop, the property was perfect for a new art center with galleries, classroom space, and a creek path that meandered through a sculpture garden and past the existing silos. They secured a $100,000 grant from the Bastrop Economic Development Corporation and a matched grant of $100,000 from a Houston arts foundation and began on the ambitious project. It took a bold vision to imagine this land as a destination art center, but that vision is finally being realized.

Before the project could move forward, the art league needed to determine if there was contamination at the site. To address those environmental concerns, the site entered the TCEQ Brownfields Site Assessment Program in 2010. Approximately $88,000 was spent by the TCEQ and EPA to investigate the site. After response actions for the site achieved residential land use standards, a Conditional Certificate of Completion was issued on August 12, 2012.

The Lost Pines Art League was then able to purchase the property and began fundraising for the new art center. They developed a master plan for the site and presented it at an event at the Hyatt Regency Lost Pines, where the room, equipment, and refreshments were provided as in-kind contributions. From that, the Bastrop City Council approved a $100,000 investment. Once they had shown that the project was destined for success, Outside the Lost Pines Art Center building facing the front.the money started pouring in. They leveraged over $3.8 million in various grants and donations, including ArtPlace America’s Creative Placemaking 2014 Grant.

The main building was completed in December 2016 and since then over 13,000 non-members have visited the center. In 2017, it won the Best of Bastrop Art Galleries award as well as the Best New Construction Under 50k population and Best New Construction People’s Choice Awards from the Texas Downtown Association. This project exemplifies the amount of funding that can be leveraged from a small state investment in assessment and the impact that redeveloping a brownfield property can have on a community. Starting with that initial environmental assessment, what was once an eyesore has become an award-winning art destination for Bastrop.

For more information contact the TCEQ Brownfields Site Assessment Program by email at brnflds@tceq.texas.gov or contact the BSA Program Manager at (512) 239-2252.

Expedited Permitting

An open munition showing small balls surrounded by chicken wireIn recognition of the agency’s mission, the Waste Permits Division dedicated staff resources to expedite the issuance of a RCRA hazardous waste permit to Expal USA, Inc. These efforts, combined with Expal’s motivation to shorten their response timeframes, allowed the permit to be issued on November 22, 2016, a remarkable four months ahead of schedule. TCEQ staff issued a protective permit while helping establish a new business in Texas that provides both economic and environmental benefits.

Expal USA Inc., is a demilitarization processing facility in Hooks, Texas and will disassemble hazardous military munitions, such as artillery projectiles, cluster bomb units, bomblets, mines, grenades and cartridges. Expal plans to initially hire 45 people to operate the site, with additional jobs expected in the future.