September 26, 2022 - TRA Newswire -

Union Pacific Railroad and representatives from the city of Houston, Harris County and the Bayou City Initiative continue their discussions on measures to remediate a former wood-tie preserving site that UP inherited in the Southern Pacific merger back in 1997.

"The well-being of all Houstonians — including our important neighbors in the Fifth Ward and those nearby — are at the heart of all our steps, rooted in compassion, collaboration and, most importantly, action," said Clint Schelbitzki, Assistant Vice President of Public Affairs for UP's southern region.

Union Pacific just received the results of the city of Houston's dioxin study, after repeatedly asking for the data. The report shows the dioxin levels in the city's samples are well below the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality's clean-up standards for dioxins in residential areas.

In a news release, Union Pacific stated that "attributing widespread dioxin only to operations at the former Southern Pacific Houston Wood Preserving Works site is unreasonable and inaccurate. For more than a century, nearly 100 businesses operated in the highly industrialized area by the site. Now, the environmental remnants of the industrial prosperity that once flourished there are causing residents and regulators to raise concerns about pollutants on the ground, in the air and in the water."

Until the 1980s, Southern Pacific spent decades using creosote to treat wood for rail ties at its Houston Wood Preserving Works facility, affecting soils and groundwater. Union Pacific took responsibility for remediation activities when it merged with Southern Pacific - 13 years after the facility closed in 1984.

Manufacturers, metal foundries, auto shops, electrical contractors, printing plants, laundromats and other businesses all operated in the area near the former Houston Wood Preserving Works site. In addition to dioxins, the chemical remnants these types of businesses may have left behind include arsenic, vinyl chloride, lead, Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs) and Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), and dozens more.

"Union Pacific aims to work with the city of Houston, Harris County and the Bayou City Initiative to collect data and to formulate a sound, science-based plan for moving forward," according to the railroad. Since the SP-UP merger, the railroad has conducted investigative and cleanup work under the oversight and approval of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

Photo credit: Houston Public Media