Don Phillips, leader of Clean Up Garland, shown looking over Duck Creek, is concerned that pollutants from the former battery manufacturer extend beyond EPA's cleanup area. Photo by Betsy Friauf.

Oct. 8, 2021

Environmental cleanup is well underway at a site near the former Globe Union facility in Garland, but some residents remain concerned the cleanup won't eradicate all of the contamination caused by the former lead battery manufacturer or other industrial facilities in the area.

On Aug. 5, the EPA announced it would begin replacing the soil along a narrow corridor in a residential area neighboring the facility. The announcement came after soil tests showed high levels of lead contamination in a report released in May 2020.

The agency began cleanup last month and crews are currently making their way through the affected area, generally along a creek that runs from Shiloh Road, just south of Forest Lane in a southeasterly direction toward Duck Creek Drive.

From the 1950s until 1995, Globe Union manufactured lead acid batteries and was apparently a source of lead pollution for those who lived downstream of the facility. The plant is located in the heavily industrial portion of Garland that butts against a large residential area that lies generally in the center of the city.

Dallas Sierra Club Eco Action Conservation Committee member Collin Yarbrough says the facility is suspected of having discharged lead contaminated water into the creek, which then contaminated the water and the soil along the creek’s bank. But he said trying to find answers regarding the source of the pollution has been frustrating.

“That's the suspicion,” said Yarbrough. “I don't have any verified documented evidence other than eyewitness accounts of the operation. We don't have any hard physical evidence, because they ceased operations in 1995.”

Private testing by neighborhood residents, who became concerned after learning of a growing number of cancer victims living near the plant, led to the EPA’s involvement. 

Although a Texas Department of State Health Services study in 2018 found no cancer cluster, testing by the Federal agency and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality confirmed the residents’ fears that the soil in their neighborhood was contaminated. 

Yarbrough says all told, about 100 samples have been collected throughout the surrounding neighborhoods prior to the EPA cleanup.

“[Local residents] have been doing work advocating, researching and trying to understand what is going on in their neighborhood because Globe Union is just one of many potential actors in the area, and residents are just concerned – just not knowing exactly what links exist to cancer or whether it's definitely a cancer cluster or not,” Yarbrough adds.

The affected neighborhoods are located in what Yarbrough describes as a “massive industrial zone” in the industrial hub of Garland.

Don Phillips, founder of Clean Up Garland, a non-profit group representing about 2,000 Garland residents, says the concerns among those who live near the industrial area began in the mid-1990s.

Phillips describes the contaminated areas as demographically consisting of low-income families who lack the resources to fully investigate how they may be affected. He’s especially concerned about the schools nearby and whether there’s been sufficient attention given to nearby campuses to ensure the safety of the children there.

“There needs to be more evaluation,” Phillips says. “Specifically, now, we're just looking at areas in general that need to be evaluated for manufacturing contamination. We've got a really good working relationship with the EPA now. And once we identify those [schools], we're hoping to continue the same relationship that we have with [EPA] Region Six.”

Yarbrough says that additional private testing conducted just recently has revealed that the scope of lead contamination in the neighborhoods near Globe Union may be much larger than the current cleanup site. 

Yarbrough says that additional private testing conducted just recently has revealed that the scope of lead contamination in the neighborhoods near Globe Union may be much larger than the current cleanup site. 

The EPA, however, takes action on a case-by-case basis. A larger cleanup up area would therefore require additional investigations and analyses, a process that could take years to initiate and complete. Once the current clean up effort is complete, he fears the problem of lead contamination in the area will likely persist.

“The additional testing confirmed what we already knew about the extent of the contamination,” Yarborough says. “We are exploring other avenues to understand the comprehensive community impacts which may have occurred for decades, in order to try and untangle the web of environmental impacts to the neighborhood.” 



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