HOUSTON (FOX 26) - For more than a decade, the owners of a now defunct dry cleaning operation dumped a chemical called tetrachloroethylene directly on the ground behind this Jones Road Strip Mall.
“This plume, this area of contamination under the ground and in our groundwater system is migrating west,” warns Jackie Young, leader of the Texas Health & Environment Alliance.
It was enough cancer causing toxin that the EPA eventually designated the area a Superfund site, although you wouldn't know it by looking.
There's no sign and no fencing.
FOX 26 watched as an unknowing elderly pedestrian took a short-cut right through the dump site which is still emitting vapors.
“I would like signs to be put up warning people that it's there and I want it cleaned up,” said Kathy Marquis, a longtome resident of the Cypress area.
Marqui has good reason. She's among multiple moms in the area with children diagnosed with leukemia.
“The middle school I believe last year had three boys in the same grade all battling Leukemia at the same time,” said Marquis.
Her suspicions of a "cancer cluster" triggered an epidemiological study by the state.
“The number of expected pediatric leukemia cases would have been 3.6, but the number that we had in the area I had run was eight, which to me is a red flag,” said Marquis.
As the EPA continues to remediate the contamination, businesses continue to operate in the strip mall literally feet from the spot activists call "ground zero."
Cathy calls the exposure dangerous and wrong.
“They are shopping in that area, living in that area and breathing in the pollutants, drinking in the pollutants. I can't link my child's cancer to that Superfund site, I can't do that. But knowing that it's there, knowing that those chemicals cause cancer, I want to do what I can to limit the number of families who have to hear that their child has cancer,” said Marquis.
Marquis’ daughter survived the childhood Leukemia and is now a thriving college student. While grateful, Cathy is haunted by the probability some living near the toxic dump site haven’t been as fortunate.
FOX 26 received the following statement from an EPA spokesperson.
EPA has installed controls to limit potential exposure to contaminants at the at the Jones Road Groundwater Plume Superfund Site. At the Cypress Shopping Center on Jones Road, EPA installed exhaust fans to protect workers and customers from contaminated air coming from beneath the shopping center. EPA also installed a water line to provide clean water to residents with impacted wells and prevent exposure to contaminated groundwater.
Signage is not typically used on groundwater sites where contamination is many feet below the surface. However, signage and restrictions will be placed in the SVE System treatment compound.
The EPA is now working to eliminate a source of contamination to the indoor air within the shopping center. This new work will provide a long-term solution and prevent future impacts to the indoor air and will also remove a source of contamination to the groundwater. The current actions include installing wells to extract vapors from soil up to 110 feet below ground surface. The extracted vapors will be routed to treatment system being constructed on the southeast side of the shopping center. The current construction activities are not occurring in contaminated areas and are not causing customers and workers at the shopping center to be exposed to harmful vapors.
Construction is expected to be completed by the end of the month, and the treatment system is expected to be operational in July 2019.