The Former Houston Wood
Preserving Works Site

Remediation and Cleanup

In 1997 Union Pacific acquired the site when it merged with Southern Pacific — 13 years after the facility closed.

When operational, the site treated railroad ties using creosote, a liquid derived from the distillation of tar from wood or coal.

Since assuming ownership, Union Pacific conducts work at the site under federal and state oversight and in accordance with its cleanup permit issued by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) and in accordance with the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). Union Pacific conducted extensive cleanup efforts and collected significant data to fully understand the impact on soil and groundwater. Our work has always focused on determining whether people living near the site could be exposed to creosote. All investigations and testing results demonstrate the same result: there is not a complete exposure pathway either from vapor intrusion or groundwater.

In August 2020, Union Pacific applied for a permit renewal, so that our work at the site can continue.

Summary of Site Remediation and Cleanup Activities

Union Pacific has accomplished the following cleanup and remediation activities to date, approved and under the TCEQ’s supervision:

More than 11,000 tons or 22 million pounds of creosote-impacted soil was consolidated onsite and an engineered cap was built to prevent exposure.

Concrete and asphalt pavement were used to cover the neighboring Englewood Intermodal Yard, serving as a physical barrier to the underground creosote plume.

Union Pacific implemented and continues to conduct significant and widespread sampling of over 120 groundwater monitoring wells within the site and outside the property beneath the Greater Fifth Ward and the Kashmere Gardens area.

Current railroad infrastructure located between the former facility and the Englewood Yard serves as an engineered cap, preventing exposure to underlying soil.

Union Pacific implemented a creosote removal program to pump and remove it from monitoring wells as well as surface areas where it is found.

The contaminated area located between the site’s boundary and Liberty Road was addressed through a combination of soil excavation and concrete sidewalk construction.

Data and ongoing monitoring prove each of these preventive measures have been effective.

Further Action Addressing Community Concerns

Slurry Wall Installation

Union Pacific seeks approval to install a large underground physical barrier using a bentonite slurry wall that will be located along Liberty Road. This wall is recommended by the U.S. EPA as best practice to contain the groundwater contamination and prevent future migration offsite. It will be approximately 75 feet deep on the east side and approximately 55 feet deep on the north.

Groundwater Management

In conjunction with the vertical wall barrier, Union Pacific has restricted the use of groundwater on site and in the City of Houston right of way surrounding the north and east sides through groundwater use restrictions.

Creosote Recovery

Union Pacific proposes to enhance and continue current creosote recovery efforts, even though the groundwater is not consumed or used in any manner. Proposed recovery techniques include:

 

  • Multi-Phase Extraction (MPE)
    Although Union Pacific regularly recovers creosote at and around the site using various pumping techniques, we propose installing additional recovery wells and using a vacuum process to remove additional contaminants. The MPE approach will utilize a trailer-mounted system that can be moved to different locations as necessary.

Site Inspections

  • Weekly inspections of the Englewood Yard to assess for seeps and removal of creosote contamination as necessary.
  • Quarterly inspections and maintenance of the engineered cap areas.

Groundwater Monitoring

  • Semi-annual groundwater sampling of the groundwater monitoring well network.

Corrective Action Monitoring Reporting

  • Remediation and post-response action activities including site inspections and groundwater monitoring results completed during the reporting period will be submitted to the TCEQ in the annual Corrective Action Monitoring Report.
© Union Pacific 2022
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