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2012 soil testing at 36 West Dallas addresses
The federal /Texas cleanup standard is 400 parts per million 400 parts per million is no longer considered a stringent enough standard to protect children from harm. The states of Minnesota and California use a much lower screening standard:
For nearly 50 years, a secondary lead smelter operated in West Dallas. It polluted the surrounding neighborhood with dangerously high levels of lead. Cleanups were done in the 1980s and 1990s. But recent soil testing commissioned by The Dallas Morning News shows low levels of lead contamination still exist that can cause health effects.
Minnesota standard: 100 ppm California standard: 80 ppm Lead occurs naturally in Texas soil at 15 to 30 ppm One-third of the addresses tested contained lead in the soil greater than 100 parts per million.
Less than 100 parts per million Westmoreland More than 100 parts per million
Margaret Hunt Hill Bridge 198
109 218 215 124 458 592
How the lead contamination occurred
The plant at Singleton Boulevard and Westmoreland Road opened in the mid-1930s in a mostly industrial area. A post-war building boom in the late 1940s brought homes to the area in droves. The smelter accepted used vehicle batteries for recycling and in the process, the surrounding community became polluted. Emissions from the smelter’s 300-foottall smokestack were a big source of contamination. The contaminants in the air eventually settled on the ground. Properties closest to the smelter had the greatest contamination.
Parts per million:
300 500 700 1,000
Based on 1982 soil sampling
EXTRACTED LEAD Emissions weren’t the only dangers:
Workers at the plant would crush the batteries, extract the lead and sell it for reuse.
Contaminated plastic pieces from crushed batteries along with waste from the plant called slag were dumped throughout the neighborhood. They were also used for years as fill in people’s driveways and yards. A neighborhood survey in 1992 found battery chips in hundreds of yards.
The first cleanup in the 1980s covered residential areas within a half mile of the plant most affected by air emissions. Another series of cleanups in the 1990s involved a broader area contaminated by battery chips and slag. In 1995, the EPA declared the cleanup as complete.
Yards with battery chips, 1992
First cleanup, 1984-85
e. Av th or tW or F
To help with cleanup, the EPA declared a 13.6-square-mile area of West Dallas as a Superfund site.
Yet today, battery chips are still found in yards and harmful levels of lead remain in West Dallas.
Valerie Wigglesworth/Staff Writer; Michael Hogue/Staff Artist