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Lead contamination at Shingle Mountain site linked to old plant — and could extend into neighborho

Shingle Mountain is seen from Floral Farms, on Choate Rd., on Aug. 5.
Keren Carrión
Shingle Mountain is seen from Floral Farms, on Choate Rd., on Aug. 5.

That revelation came up as council members on Wednesday discussed a $2 million cleanup at the former Shingle Mountain site. The funding was approved. Plans call for turning the site into a new park.

In 2021, the city acquired ownership of the site in the Floral Farms neighborhood where many tons of old shingles and other construction debris was dumped for many years. That debris was hauled away by the city last year as well.

Council member Tennell Atkins represents the area. Atkins said at Wednesday’s council meeting that he worries about the extent of the contamination.

This is not the first site, he said, where there have been “environmental problems around the neighborhood.”

Atkins said in a statement that he looked forward to seeing the area “brought up to residential standards to finally give the community the safety and peace of mind they deserve.”

“We must be good stewards of our environment, and as a city, we must advocate for the health and wellbeing of our Dallas communities," said council member Paula Blackmon, who serves as the chairwoman of the Environment and Sustainability Committee.

Atkins also asked during Wednesday’s meeting who would be responsible for possible contamination in the area beyond the site.

Earlier this week, Genaro Viniegra Jr. who lives in the Floral Farms neighborhood, said he and other residents worry that the hazardous materials found at the site are impacting their health. Residents have attributed dry coughs, asthma and breathing problems to the contamination.

“We have kids running around and playing, and we have livestock to take care of. So, it’s a little upsetting,” Viniegra said.

Anenvironmental assessment found alarming levels of lead in the soil at the site last year. They were three times higher than the minimum required to clean up the site.

Environmental activists have said they didn’t just want the shingles removed — they wanted the ground underneath to be safe as well.

Environmental activist Evelyn Mayo said this week that restoring the site is a huge step toward transforming it into a park.

“This is a good sign that the city is not just remediating it, but actually committed to going to residential standards,” said Mayo, who is with the group Downwinders at Risk.

Viniegra said the cleanup will help residents reclaim their neighborhood.

“It is just one step closer to fulfilling our dreams... getting that park,” he said.

The Office of Environmental Quality and Sustainability (OEQS) said it started an additional assessment of the property. Once that is done officials plan to enter the property into a state regulatory cleanup program. Then officials at the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality will determine what is the best remediation option.

“The purpose of this remediation is to better protect the health of our neighbors, particularly those that live immediately adjacent to the site,” said Carlos Evans, Director of the OEQS in a statement earlier this week.

Environmental experts say the site's cleanup could be completed as early as fall 2023.

Got a tip? Alejandra Martinez is a Report For America corps member for KERA News. Email Alejandra at amartinez@kera.org. You can follow Alejandra on Twitter @alereports.

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Copyright 2022 KERA. To see more, visit KERA.

Alejandra Martinez is a reporter for KERA and The Texas Newsroom through Report for America (RFA). She's covering the impact of COVID-19 and its associated economic fallout on marginalized communities.