Council confirms Cherry Lane closure imminent

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by A.C. Hall

In a special meeting on Tuesday the White Settlement City Council received an update on the soil contamination in the 2000 block of south Cherry Lane.  Assistant City Manager Jeff James gave the update, first providing some background on this issue.  According to James, the first time this issue was noticed was in 1989 when there was a leak in the underground gas tanks of the gas station on the east side of the Cherry Lane and I30 intersection.  The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality addressed the problem at that time and installed two well sites that would allow them to monitor the area for future leaks.  
In 2008, crews working in the area reported smelling gas.  TCEQ investigated and found that residual oil was present and cleaned up the site once again.
Eight years later the City finds itself in a nearly identical situation.  On Jan. 13, the contractor working on the Cherry Lane street overhaul in the 2000 block reported a possible contamination.  As they began to tear up the road, they started seeing and smelling an oil type substance.  TCEQ has since confirmed the presence of residual fuel contaminants in the soil.  James offered some insight into what caused this issue to reoccur.
“We have had a tremendous amount of rain,” James said.  “All of the rain pushed those oil products up.”
He went on to add that the heavy rains caused the water table to rise, which is what brought the contaminants back up to the surface.  As they’ve began to investigate the problem, TCEQ has said this is not a new leak and that the contaminants are simply leftover from previous problems in the area.
James informed council that TCEQ will be paying for and handling the cleanup.  The City is coordinating with the Texas Department of Transportation to get a traffic control plan into place so the cleanup process can begin.  That plan is expected to be ready this week.
While the final traffic plan isn’t ready, James indicated that it will include the section of Cherry Lane from IHOP up to the access road being fully closed.
“It’s a health and safety issue,” James said.
James said the city has been talking to the businesses in that area that will be impacted by the road closure.
“Nobody’s happy about it, but everybody seems to be understanding,” James said.
He said there are alternative ways of getting to these businesses.  Council member Dave Mann stressed the importance of doing whatever they can for these businesses.
“We need to make sure our businesses are taken care of,” Mann said.
The cleanup and remediation of the area is expected to start in early February and should last a month.  James spoke about a process of digging deep into the soil, tilling in a product that will absorb any leftover contaminants, then adding on fresh soil and eventually the rebuilt road back on top.  He also reiterated the cause of this issue.
“It is not an ongoing leak, it’s residual oil in the ground,” James said.
With the cleanup process starting as early as Feb. 1 and likely causing the complete closure of Cherry Lane from Scott Street to I30, drivers will need to make plans to take an alternate path through this section of White Settlement for at least a month.