Brio Superfund and the South Belt Ellington Leader
The South Belt area, in 1957, was rice paddies and cow pastures. The area was prone to flooding (hence the rice paddies) and was 20 miles south of Houston on the Gulf Freeway. It seemed remote enough, I'm sure, in 1957, for a decent place to establish the Brio Refinery, and next door, Dixie Oil Processing. Processing didn't cease all operations until 1982 when the last of numerous companies under different names filed for bankruptcy. By then, the Southbend neighborhood was well underway, the edge of its backyard fencing along the property line of land filled with pits, filled with toxins, many unknown, mostly buried.
South Belt's darkest legacy will likely always be what is known, in shorthand, as Brio.
Ask anyone growing up in the neighborhood during the '80s and early 90s and someone will have a horror story to share.
But the legacy could have been much darker.
The Leader was a voice of dissent and a bullhorn for some families in South Bend who just couldn't shake the feeling the EPA and the Brio Task Force weren't giving them the whole story. Too many kids with too many problems. Too many babies born with defects, one-in-a-million diseases, who lived on the same street.
When the EPA and BTF were pushing forward with incineration, which would have created new airborne toxins across all of the South Belt, it was the little local newspaper that started fighting back.
Some in the community sided with the Brio Task Force's contention that the dissent and "scare tactics" of the paper were all about making money. Very quickly, the community started to split between those who wanted the EPA's cleanup, believing nothing was really contaminated, and those who were deeply suspicious that big chemical companies were dodging the truth about what was really lurking in that land.
The collection of South Belt Ellington Leader stories during the 80s can be found here.
Apologies to the Brio group that linked to an older post that contained only a few of the clippings from that decade. I deleted it once the full 1980s scans were put together under a new link. (There was no conspiracy concerning the dead link. It was duplication.)
You can find all of what was at the now dead link combined with additional information in the link above or to the right of the blog text on a computer. (Under Popular Posts, second down, accessible in the right hand toobar. ---->)
The bulk of the 1990 to 1993 articles are scanned and pieced together as best they can in chronological order below. There are some very confusing issues where the Volume number does not correlate to the date (a few scans have incorrect volume numbers but were in order in the stacks and the story narratives line up).
This is one mother of a post, for a variety of reasons.
January 1990 started out with front page coverage and for months there was rarely a week that went by that another startling discovery or allegation or witness would come forward that merited headlines.
I'm hopeful those interested in the Brio debacle will find this resource helpful. Seeing the timeline of discoveries in one place certainly helped me clarify how things unfolded better than I had previously understood them.
I transcribed titles and those excerpts which I felt best captured the focus of the piece. Your mileage may vary. Please click on any article to enlarge it for better reading.
Starting with the first week of the new decade:
January 4, 1990
Court fines Monsanto $190,000
The late production of six boxes of documents by the defendant in the Slaughter vs. Monsanto case has resulted in sanctions which included $190,000 and the reappearance of expert witnesses who are now using those documents against Monsanto. . . .
Many of the Monsanto documents which were revealed in court Tuesday indicate additional contamination on the Brio Superfund site and in the adjoining Southbend community.
"I think it [a newly presented Monsanto document] confirms that all of the pathways that we talked about in my original testimony are real, that the Task Force had data on many of those pathways that apparently never found their way to the reports and that when the Task Force was reaching conclusions about low risks and containing sources, that they had data and in come cases opinions which said otherwise," testified Wilson.
Looking straight at the problem, people either believe the statements of the Environmental Protection Agency and the Brio Task Force concerning the sites' status or they believe those people in charge did not do their job and the conditions are much worse.
EPA Project Manager for the Superfund waste sites Lou Barinka said in a taped conversation with a homeowner, "It's been a war, either you believe her (South Belt-Ellington Leader co-publisher Marie Flickinger) or you believe us."
Not many residents believe they would find themselves battling the U.S. government just to find the truth about their neighborhoods. . . .
In April 1989, former Brio site employee P.T. White went public with his knowledge of off-site dumping of hazardous material during the late 1970s. White said he built a spreader bar for attachment to the back of a tank truck, so heated waste materials could be dumped from the truck.
White described the dumping incidents as numerous. He said the material was dumped in the fields north of the site where the Southbend subdivision is now located. Dumping also occurred on Dixie Farm Road and Beamer when the roads were still dirt.
Another former employee P.C. Vasquez said drivers could gain access to the fields using a pipeline easement.
Despite White's knowing about off-site dumping, the EPA never attempted to contact White, preferring to claim they had no evidence of off-site dumping. . . .
Tests conducted in 1987 indicated hazardous chemicals at Beamer Towers included methylene chloride, benzene, toluene, chlorobenzene, ethylbenzene and arsenic. These same chemicals are found at the Brio site.
USA Ball Fields abandoned
[photo addition, mine. From the Roeder files, you can see the "miraculous" fence that "protected" kids from chemical harm.]
Following allegations of off-site dumping from Brio and unauthorized drainage from the DOP site, site testing and a disbelief in the EPA, members of the youth sports leagues using the United Sports Association fields located adjacent to DOP voted not the use the fields again.
In April, an independent lab analysis of tars from the DOP site showed high concentrations of mutagens and carcinogens. Among the chemicals found in the sample were chloroprene and phenylhydrazine. . . .
For months, Barinka had said no tars existed at DOP, even when tars were found coming out of the ground during visits by community leaders to the DOP site. . . .
[Photo addition mine, from Leader files. Ballfields visible in background.]
In questioning Barinka about remediation workers at the DOP site wearing full protective gear including respirators and creating airborne dust, Barinka said it was all right because the children played ball at night. . . . [emphasis mine]
While the youth sports people left for the safety of the children's health, new health concerns emerged for the residents of the Southbend subdivision. Residents have always tried to link health problems with exposure to the chemicals at the two sites, but proving the cause relationship is difficult.
Startled by the discovery of internal birth defects affecting their daughter, Cheryl and Jim Finley along with a neighbor began an informal health survey in the Southbend area.
One of their daughters was born without a uterus and ovaries. In searching for more health problems, the survey indicated an unusually high number of children with health problems.
Further investigation and checking of Brio Task Force and EPA records revealed five children within a 28-home area adjacent to Weber Elementary School were born with severe birth defects. One child was still born and had a rare blood disease similar to leukemia. All six pregnancies were conceived during the same time waste samples were collected for test incineration and bioremediation at the Brio site. . . .
Records show vinyl chloride levels in Pit J are 22,700,000 ppb.
Industry safe levels for vinyl chloride are 2 ppb.
January 11, 1990
Officials Restudy Brio/DOP
Officials Restudy Brio/DOP
The top four stories the following week on the left news bar were different responses to the newest information about the Brio coverup.
In the main article:
Hirschhorne in his position as a Superfund expert has seen the coverup documents reported in the Leader in the Slaughter vs. Monsanto court case. He termed the documents as "the best coverup documents he'd ever seen."
As an objective observer outside the realm of EPA Region 6, Hirschhorne has also seen and read articles written by the Leader staff on Brio and DOP as well as viewing the now recognized "DOP Tar Wars" videotape.
In reference to the videotape shot at the DOP site and edited with comments from EPA officials detailing their concerns about the work done at both sites, Hirschhorne said the EPA Region 6's attitude and approach was horrifying.
Hirschhorne said with efforts of the Leader and the court case investigation much of what is now coming to light about the gross misrepresentation of the Brio situation would have slipped into history.
"People end up feeling that EPA is not on their side. It makes you kind of sick,
Hirschhorne also said one problem the EPA perpetuates across the nation is the "hysterical housewife" or someone who continually questions the actions of the EPA.
"When citizens actually find some wrong with an investigation or proposed cleanup and want to bring it to someone's attention, the EPA says, "She's just hysterical," said Hirschhorne. . . .
According to Hirschhorne, the Record of Decision for Brio is a classic lousy ROD. "It is one of the poorest ones not only for what it says but what it doesn't say.
"It is easy to find errors in the Remedial Investigation (a basis for the ROD). I found several wrong things, simple things. In the write up by IT, I found hexochlorobenzene listed as only in Pit F, but looked in the other reports and immediately found it in two other pits.
"But the table of data doesn't even show Pit F and it's a nasty chemical."
In dealing with health risks, Hirschhorne said the endangerment assessment works on the basic assumption that a person only gets exposed to one chemical and does not take into account exposure to other chemicals.
And a list of changes and deletions from the Brio Remedial Investigation accompanied the main piece:
January 18, 1990
Brio Meeting Riles Citizens
But, in trying to understand the EPA's position, Johnson asked about pits containing unknowns for up to two-thirds of the pit contents. "How can you remediate a pit when you don't know what it is you are remediating?"
Same issue, Rumor vs. Fact on Brio (Part 1)
All the South Belt-Ellington Leader coverage on the subject of the Brio Superfund site has caused quite a bit of commotion recently. Facts revealed by the Leader have to proved to many residents, important community leaders and government officials that we have been believing a lie.
The Brio Superfund site is a problem for not just Southbend, but the entire South Belt area. The Brio Task Force (which, according to the court is Monsanta) their paid public relations firm and even the Environmental Protection Agency are hoping we will continue to believe the lies.
Now they are hoping to split the community apart.
This is the tactic they have used throughout the nation in situation such as ours. To prove this, just check out other super fund sites around the country. This has happened time and time again. It has been reported numerous times on television and the newspapers.
The story's the same -- and now it's happening here.
Here's how it goes:
1. Community believe EPA and the Potential Responsible Parties (such as Monsanto) that an inferior and ofen times "disastrous" cleanup is "good" for the community.
2. Community believes their story. "There is no health problem."
3. Some community members, usually mothers of affected children and community newspapers, etc. start to investigate problems.
4. Truth reveals that the community has falsely been led to believe there are no health problems and the proposed cleanup is good for the community.
5. Potentially Responsible Parties and EPA work to build support against community members who realize that they have been lied to by using businesses such as realtors and other business people to put pressure on community people and community newspapers.
This is happening in South Belt. There are people who sincerely want to believe there is no problem. J.J. Goldman and EPA officials have encouraged these feelings. Goldman and EPA officials have used rumors and even lies to discredit those who have taken time and effort to learn the truth.
EPA, Monsanto and Monsanto's spokesperson J.J. Goldman are counting on causing a split in the community. That would make their job much easier.
If the South Belt area is to survive this situation, it is imperative that we work together as a community. That we join efforts to see that the present Consent Decree, Monsanto's answer to the Brio problems, not be implemented.
Monsanto has a very good chance of accomplishing this . . . especially if we, as a community, do not join forces.
- Rumor: Brio will be all cleaned up and look like a park.
- Fact: There is no intention of cleaning up all of Brio. Only 6 of the 22 pits are planned for total cleanup and partial cleanup is planned for the other pits, while some pits will have dirt put on top of them as just left as is. There is no intention of making the land usable again.
- Rumor: There can't be any problem at Brio or the hospital would be involved.
- Fact: Until recently, hospital administrators have been fooled like the rest of us. They are now realizing something is not right in the Monsanto evaluation and remediation of the site and are consequently getting involved to try and correct the situation.
- Rumor: Brio only affects Southbend.
- Fact: If EPA and Monsanto are successful and incinerations starts at the site, the entire community will realize the problem belongs to all of us -- not just Southbend.
- Rumor: Marie Flickinger is printing the Brio stories because she owns lots of homes in Southbend and is making money on lawsuits.
- Fact: My name is on one house, but it actually belongs to my son. It was bought in 1987 while I still believed EPA, as of yet I am in no lawsuit regarding Brio. The house is empty since my son and I sincerely believe it harmful to health to let anyone live there. Consequently, we will seek compensation from those responsible for making the home unsafe for habitation.
- Rumor: The developers of the property do not think there is any problem living in Southbend.
- Fact: Farm and Home, who helped with the development of Southbend and owned rental property there sent letters evicting their tenants from home in Southbend on the grounds that living there could cause health problems and even death. They are seeking compensation from Monsanto in a $375,000,000 suit.
- Rumor: The kids won't play ball at the USA ballfields because the leagues are in financial trouble and couldn't make the payments.
- Fact: The directors of Little League, Girls Softball, Pony-Colt, and USA all elected not to play at the fields this coming season because they realize there is a health risk associated with the fields and do not want to risk the health of the children. They too had previously believe EPA, but after many months of investigation information they decided they had no choice. EPA officals reported it would be safe for the children, even though the workers just a few feet away would have to wear protective gear to protect themselves from chemicals, the children would have have to, since there was a fence between them. (This was to an officers of one of the leagues.)
- Rumor: Marie Flickinger or the Leader are being paid by the lawyers in the Monsanto case to print the stories to try to help with the lawsuit by influencing the jurors.
- Fact: We have never accepted money to print any story in the 14 years we have been in business. In addition, jurors have been instructed not to watch, listen, or read stories on Brio.
- Rumor: All the Southbend residents have already been in lawsuits.
- Fact: The Monsanto trial is the third set of lawsuits which have included residents. To date, no resident has entered more than one lawsuit. It appears residents will be continuing to get into lawsuits. As homes continue to be sold and after people move in and learn the health problems associated with the site, they then join new suits. We cannot understand why homes continue to be sold or why the government continues to finance homes. In addition, why does Lou Barinka, EPA project manager for Brio continue to tell people there is no problem with Brio and it's okay to move in there?
- Rumor: People are buying homes just to get in a lawsuit.
- Fact: Although we do not know of any such case, it is totally possible and will be more possible as time goes by since the sale of homes continues.
- Rumor: Joel Hirschhorne of the Office of Technology Assessment, who visited here last week and blasted EPA regarding Brio is just a lobbyist who was promoting a book he wrote.
- Fact: Hirschhorne is not a lobbyist. He works for Congress as a consultant on superfund sites. The book he mentioned at the meeting, "Coming Clean," is not his book: it officially belongs to Congress and is given free, not sold. Hirschhorn was project manager for the two-year congressional study which resulted in the publication of the book.
January 25, 1990
Rumor vs. Fact, Part 2
- Rumor: J.J. Goldman represents the people who are going to clean up the site.
- Fact: Actually she represents the Brio Task Force, Monsanto and the other chemical companies that contaminated the site.
- Rumor: The South Belt-Ellington Leader is being sued by realtors.
- Fact: We have no been so informed and do not believe this to be the case. Many of our realtors are beginning to realize there is a problem. We are certain they will be a strong force behind doing what is best for the community.
- Rumor: Weber Elementary is built on a toxic pit. When construction was going on, a man fell in the pit.
- Fact: All old aerial photos indicate there was no pit on the Weber site. We have never heard of a man falling in any pit. (A dozen cows did fall in Pit Q and died during 1986.) There is documentation that when the utilities for Weber and Southbend were being installed, the Texas Department of Water Resources (as it was called then) was called out to inspect a potential problem. What was reportedly found were chemicals -- black, oily, etc. Since no source of the chemicals was found, construction continues. This situation would appear to validate Pat White' statement that there was dumping through the subdivision.
- Rumor: Beamer Town, the two-story unfinished building at the entrance to Southbend doesn't have hazardous chemicals; the owner of the property just poured light motor oils on the property. (This was stated by Lou Barinka, Environmental Protection Agency site manager for Brio.)
- Fact: Hazardous chemicals have been found on the site by independent testers. EPA tested the site Aug. 16, 1989, but as of yet have no released any information except, "there is no immediate health risk associated with the site." It is EPA Region 6's plan to name Beamer Towers a new site if they fell significant chemicals are found there. Aerial photos show there is a pit located on the Beamer Tower property -- in the subdivision.
- Rumor: EPA has full review of the Brio Task Force documents; residents can be confident that all information is correct since EPA is overseeing these documents.
- Fact: Monstanto has exercised its authority to change data on numerous documents, such as changing volume amounts of pits, amount of contamination and coverage of contamination. According to EPA this drastic changing of data is "ok" and will make no difference on the Consent Decree.
February 1, 1990
CCISD Refuses Transfers
Weber is approximately four blocks from the toxic waste site. . . . During the meeting, the administration qualified the medical reasoning narrowing the scope to say a physician's statement must say attending the school is the cause of a child's ailment.
In an ironic egg-on-face acknowledgment , the board said they had rejected a proposed site for the new administration building because the build would have been constructed too close to major powerlines. The board was concerned about the health safety of the employees if located next to an electromagnetic field.
February 9, 1990
Postman Drops Southbend Route
Working three to four hours a day for 6 1/2 years in Southbend, Ogles developed his own health problems, while watching from a third-person point of view the Brio story unravel for the residents.
At first I didn't hardly pay attention, but I found myself developing severe sore throats on even bright sunny days. That just doesn't happen. I don't smoke, but these sore throats would suddenly happen . . . then clear up when I got back to the post office (Windmill Station).
"Something is really, really wrong down there," said Ogles.
More Brio Cover-Up Surfaces
According to the RI reports, Pit J contained 78 inches of cover soil or a little over 6 feet. Original information gathered in the field recorded between 6 and 18 inches of top soild for Pit J. . . . At least eight other pit figures were changed from Brother's field notes.
After finishing his testimony, Brothers said from his knowledge after working on-site, he would not live in the Southbend neighborhood. . . . Based on the average amounts of styrene tars brought to the site in the 60's and 706s, Kaufman said he estimates six times the amount of tars documented could exist at Brio.
With evidence submitted in the report, Hirschhorne said he believes the Environmental Protection Agency could be forced to start the site investigation and remediation plans from scratch. Hirschhorn also said he thinks Congress has enough information concerning cover-ups at the site to warranty a congressional investigation.
Realtor Puts No Sale Hold on Southbend
During the questioning my Monsanto's attorney, LeBlanc was asked to review a videotape allegedly showing a "typical day in the life of Southbend.
A portion of the tape showed South Belt area families using the ball fields at the United Sports Association ballpark on Dixie Farm Road adjacent to the Dixie Oil Processors toxic waste site.
After LeBlanc testified the tape accurately showed the lifestyle of the neighborhood, under cross examination LeBlanc said at the end of summer the ballpark was abandoned because of its location and a fear of potential health risks. . . .
In describing the subdivision, LeBlanc said between 80 and 100 houses were vacant and would in most likelihood remain vacant.
February 8, 1990
- Rumor: The fate of the South Belt area is in the hands of 12 jurors.
- Fact: The "12 jurors" must be referring to the panel which is presently deliberating the case Slaughter v. Monsanto. The fate of our community is not in the hands of the jury: the fate of the area is in our hands. Contamination on the toxic waster sites or in the subdivision will not, and cannot. be affected by a jury's verdict on a civil case. What happens to the area depends on our working together as a community for a "good" cleanup It's our opinion the community is winning!
- Question: What is the birth defect rate of the nation; of Southbend?
- Answer: According to the Harris County Health Department, the national birth defect rate is 3 percent. The full figures for Southbend are not in yet, but in the 130 homes, which have been surveyed, there have been 13 birth defects.
The most alarming statistic is the four birth defects that occurred in a 28=house area with pregnancies dated January through April 1987. This amounted to approximately 80 percent of pregnancies at those homes during those months. In additional to the 28-house area, other pregnancies during that same time period in the subdivision also resulted in birth defects.
- Rumor: The Southbend birth defects are caused by the mothers and fathers using drugs.
- Fact: Although the use of drugs can cause birth defects, those birth defects which have been found in Southbend, according to doctors, are not a result of using drugs. It has not legally been determined what the cause actually is, but some of the defects could be caused by exposure to toxic chemicals. The Jan. - April time frames during which a number of birth defects pregnancies were taking place, the Environmental Protection Agency oversaw the tests done by The Brio Task Force) Monsanto that probably allowed the escaping of vinyl chloride and other materials. Unfortunately, according to Monsanto's own standards, the proper testing was not done to see what amounts escaped into the subdivision.
We do know, though, that under EPA's directive, the BTF put a backhoe into a pit which 22,700,000 ppb of vinyl chloride with EPA's safe limit of exposure at 2 ppb in the ground.
There is no doubt in the minds of the parents of these children that the careless way of testing in pit J was conducted resulted in a least of these birth defects.
- Question: Why have the results of EPA's test at the Beamer Towers location not been reported?
- Answer: Great question! The testing, for that area which EPA refers to as Beamer Towers Site (the 2-story unfinished building at the entrance to Southbend) was done Aug. 16, 1090. Results of the testing were to made public by EPA in September, October, November, and December. We do not know when they will be made public. It is out understanding that even the Agency for Toxic Substance and Disease Registry has been unable to get these results. The only thing we have been told by Lou Barinka, project manager for EPA at Brio, is the contamination there is not expected to "pose any health threat."
The contamination was first found at that building by a testing firm hired by a bank as a process for foreclosure. The bank, after receiving testing showing considerable amounts of hazardous waste, identical to that on Brio, declined foreclosure of the property. This was in 1987. EPA was then notified about the contamination found there.
Old aerial photos show a put located on the site as early as 1965.
- Question: Who painted the sign in front of the subdivision? (Se photo)
- Answer: Not us, and we don't know. Every one we suspect has denied any responsibility.
February 15, 1990
Jury Vindicates Monsanto's Role
Jury Vindicates Monsanto's Role
When the jurors answered no to the court-charged question as to Monsanto's degree of negligence, the jury cleared the company's liability involving the Brio toxic waste dump.
"I believe it is safe to live out there. I think that was part of the emotional decision we has to make, " said juror Jim Stecker.
Birth defects never emerged
During the course of the trail, jurors were not allowed to hear evidence of significant numbers of birth defects in children in the subdivisions.
- Question: How can there be a problem at Southbend if the jury found Monsanto was not negligent?
- Answer: In the Slaughter v. Monsanto trial, the jury found the developers, Ayrshire and Farm and Home were to blame for Southbend as it relates to Brio. Jurors were asked to determine responsibility between Monsanto, the developers, home builders and home owners. They put 100 percent blame on the developers.
- Question: Why do you think the jury found Monsanto to be totally free of responsibility for the Southbend-Brio problem?
- Answer: On hearing answers three spokesmen for the jury gave the press after the verdict, the following appeared to play a strong part in their decision:
The jury was told of no health problems. Although they heard experts talk about the dangers of exposure to chemicals, they were no made aware of birth defects and health problems which we have learned are associated with the site. They were not aware some doctors have attributed health problems directly to children being in the subdivision, and in one case, the death of a man was, according to his doctor, direct result of living next to a toxic site.
According to the guidelines set down for the case, health matters such as these were not made known to the jury.
In additional, he jury was aware (just as we have been) that no other state, county or federal agencies have states there are problems for residents in the subdivision. Unfortunately they are not aware of the fact that all these agencies are basing their evaluations on date given to them by the PEA< which was data that has been proven have been altered by Monsanto. Fortunately for our community, some of these agencies are finally taking a new look at the altered data are are beginning to question their stand on Brio.
The jury also was not aware of toxic contamination which has been found in the subdivision. They were led to believe it was only in the boundary lines of the superfund sites.
Due to the above, the jury saw it more of a "being next to a dump problem" rather than a health and toxic-in-the-community problem. Consequently, they put the full responsibility on the developers.
Many cases are lost on what the jury is not allowed to know.
- Question: We hear about vinyl chloride being at 22,700,000 ppb at pit J. Why is this chemical a problem?
- Answer: Vinyl chloride is considered a very dangerous chemical. It is a carcinogen and mutagen. Many scientists say there is no safe level of exposure. EPA reportedly say it is safe at 2 ppb. This pit is four blocks from Weber Elementary.
- Question: What are the short term effects of vinyl chloride?
- Answer: Short-term effects include headache, nausea, dizziness, weakness and light headedness.
- Question: How can you be exposed to vinyl chloride and what are the long-term effects of vinyl chloride?
- Answer: Vinyl chloride can affect you when breathed in the air and by passing through skin. Vinyl chloride is a carcinogen. It may cause damage to a developing fetus. Exposure can damage the liver, the bones and blood vessels of the hands and cause skin changes. It may cause stomach problems, kidney damage, skin allergy and damage the nervous system and blood. It may cause liver, brain, and lung cancer. Many scientists believe there is no safe level of exposure. An excess of spontaneous abortions has been reported among spouses of workers who had been exposed to vinyl chloride and increased rates of birth defects have been reported in areas where vinyl chloride processing plants are located.
- Question: Can I get long-term effects without ever having short-term effects from vinyl chloride and how long does it take to develop long-term effects?
- Answer: Yes, because long-term effects can occur from repeated exposures to a chemical at levels not high enough to make you immediately sick. Long-term effects can take 20 years or longer to develop.
- Question: Who is at the greatest risk from reproductive hazards for vinyl chloride.
- Answer: Pregnant women are at greatest risk from chemicals that harm the developing fetus. However, chemicals may affect the ability to have children, so both men and women of childbearing are are at high risk.
February 22, 1990
Expert Negates No Water Contamination
An expert familiar with the Brio Superfund says toxins found in the 50-to-100 foot aquifer are a source of contamination for Southbend drinking water, contrary to Brio Task Force claims.
"Our finding of vinyl chloride in the ground water is further evidence of the pattern of incorrect and misleading information reported by the Brio Task Force, "said Hirschhorn.
March 1, 1990
Brio Aquifer Holds Vinyl Chloride
Weber elementary school will start using bottled water for all purposes.
The Southbend MUD cease use of their water supply.
Hirschhorne's reports also says because of the volatile nature of vinyl chloride, local residents could have already been exposed to the chemical through air emission and water consumption.
CCISD Hires Consultant
While CCISD is finally beginning to come around to the dangers at Weber Elementary, by paying for an outside review, not actually doing anything for the concerned parents and exposed children . . .
March 22, 1990
Fiasco Unfolds as Hearing Fizzles
CCISD Denies Weber Transfers
If the entire matter was not extremely serious to the parents and potentially financially straining on the district, the meeting created an atmosphere where Barnum and Bailey would have enjoyed a front row seat. . . . . Cutting through all the theatrical smoke and lights conjured up during the hearing, the parents' concern for their children's safety got lost.
April 5, 1990
20 Brio Lawsuits on Way to Courts
and plantiffs attorneys in the Slaughter vs. Monsanto trial requested 151st District Court Judge Alice Trevathan grant a new trial based on a "preponderance of evidence" contrary to the original jury's verdict.
- One suit is against the Brio Task Force for hiring a public relations firm to water down the information related to the site.
- Dalton Jones is also representing 125 children who live or did live in the vicinity of the Brio Superfund site, joining with Houston attorney Joe Jamail who represents another 125 child plaintiffs.
- Farm and Home Developers are suing Monsanto
- Carrigan has filed two wrongful death suits, one for the adult male whose doctor specifically listed Brio as a cause of his death, and another for a child.
- The Southbend MUD is suing Farm and Home and Monsanto
- USAA has filed against Monsanto and the Brio Task Force
- The Girls Softball and Pony-Colt League boards are filing against multiple chemical companies
- Attorney Bill Newman filed on behalf of homeowners involved in sales of their homes from owners who had contracted through the developers.
- The Beamer Towers suit is filed for $395,000,000 alone.
- In addition to multiple personal injury suits on individuals' behalves.
Right hand story: In 1988 Farm and Home, developers of the Southbend subdivision offered to negotiate with Clear Creek ISD by helping pay a portion of the cost of relocating Weber Elementary School. (Used by the parents against CCISD for denying transfers for their children .)
Left hand story, continued below: Son's Illness Forces Parents to Make a Choice
Every time Weber Elementary third-grader Jeffrey Steinsholt attended class for more than three days, his nose clogged. His constant irritated nasal cavities forced his parents to withdraw him from school and the Clear Creek ISD.
His withdrawal came after his parents exhausted every effort to have the school district allow an in-district transfer. . . .
Because of the school's proximity to the Brio Superfund toxic waste site, doctors won't say children's health problems are caused by toxins. Sources say the doctors are afriad of having to testify in court or becoming involved in litigation. . . .
Steinsholt started going to class at Weber on August 28. By Sept. 5 the inside of his nose became inflamed and stopped up. He took the first of many trips to doctors Sept. 8. He's been to one kind of physician or another 15 times since the first trip. . . .
Recently the Steinsholts received a note from the school saying if Jeffrey missed four more days of school, he would not be promoted . . .
When she went to withdraw Jeffery from Weber she asked her son if leaving was what he really wanted. He told her, "Momma, I want to breathe again. I'm tired of being sick."
On Monday, April 2, Jeffery spent his eighth birthday at his new private school, the ones his parents must pay for now. And his little brother doesn't understand why he has to still go to Weber.
April 12, 1990
Survey Shows Problem for Southbend Births
According to a survey involving one-third of the Southbend residents, nearly half of the pregnancies since 1975 have resulted in miscarriages, birth defects and deaths.
Of the 120 surveyed pregnancies, only 66 appeared to be normal at birth.
At least 35 percent of the babies carried to full term have suffered birth defects.
National average for birth defects is 2.7 percent of live births. The average in Houston is higher at 3 percent with the difference being attributed to living in the Sun Belt and around the chemical industry.
The Southbend birth defects include a girl born without a uterus or ovaries, severe eye problems, a child needing hearth and lung transplants, a child requiring removal of her ovary because of cysts, breathing disorders and various other problems.
(below fold columns that continue appear below)
Meanwhile, things are getting worse over at CCISD
CCISD Misses Brio Site Connection
Without bothering to check on a company's background, Clear Creek ISD board of trustees approved $135,000 for an "independent" environmental study by a company that lists Monsanto and other Brio superfund PRP's as clients.
"The board spent $135,000 of taxpayers' money without even reading the material provided to them. They say they relied on the advice of their attorney (Feldman) and Pilko's representatives who said the company had no previous relationship with the Brio site, but the company does contract work for a lot of the PRPs. It looks like the district is just helping stretch the Monsanto coverup,"said Pat Steinsholt, another Weber parent.
April 19, 1990
Kicking Off Earth Day at Brio
Normally, the ceremony is held in Austin, but Parmer opted to hold the event in the Houston area because of the large number of superfund sites located here.
Kelly said Parmer selected the Brio site because it is the only toxic dump immediately adjacent to a neighborhood and less than a mile from a community college and hospital.
Photo: Contract workers hired by the Brio Task Force used a tractor/backhoe to allegedly pull out a truck stuck in the mud on the north side of the Brio Superfund roxic waste dump near the Southbend subdivision. The workers also spread a cement mix over the mud on the road. Accoding to the Brio Task Force spokeswoman, a truck carrying a crew to check the air montiros became bogged down in the mud and the tractor was needed to pull it out. The incident occurred only a few yards from one of the closed contaminated pits, which according to court documents contains only 6 inches of soil covering.
Styrene Found at Weber
Coping with the Past; Facing the Future
Gary and Carolyn Merrill's story
[Both of Carolyn's children were born immunosupressed and get dangerously ill all the time.] Carolyn must endure a rare form of mononucleosis that remains with a person throughout her life. . . . [in 1990] doctors told her she suffered from the worst case of interstitial cistelcystitis, a very rare, on-in-a-million inflammation.
With in the same time frame, one of the other original South Canyon neighbors developed a brain tumor and remains in a wheelchair with no use of her legs and only minimal use of her arms. She was 29 years old when struck down.
"Three out of the seven families who spent so much time together back then, now are affected by one of those rare, one-of-a-kind diseases. You can't tell me the Brio site didn't do this."
Other families' stories included from the column above, below the fold:
As the school year wound down and nearly half of the Weber teachers requested transfers, CCISD continued to insist Weber would be open again next fall, even if they had to bus students in to replace those leaving. (Weber will remain open one more year before closing in the fall of 1991)
People Must Solve Brio ProblemIf South Belt area residents want to do something about the Brio Superfund toxic waste dump, then they must do it themselves and not relay on any government agency, said an environmental specialist for the Louisiana attorney general's office.
William "Willie Fontenot, speaking before a pubic meeting at San Jacinto College, told the audience if they were waiting for the government to help them out, they they would just sit around waiting.
"The EPA won't help you.
The Brio Task Force won't help you.
The school district won't help you
Nobody's going to do it for you. You've got to do it," said Fontenot.
May 17, 1990
Goldman Meeting Angers Parents
Goldman Meeting Angers Parents
Many of the parents were angry at Clear Creek Independent School District because Goldman was allowed to use the building free of charge, but other groups like the Southbend water board are charged $50. Several weeks ago parents fighting the toxic waste dump were stonewalled in their attempts to hold a meeting at the building and had to move to another location.
Prior to the meeting, parents and residents staged a picket line in front of the school. In addition, a display put together by some of the protesters showed a group of mannequin dressed to represent those groups involved with the Brio Superfund site "in bed with each other."
May 24, 1990
20/20 Interviews Area Resident
Brio Needs Reinvestigation
USGS Report Calls for Additional Brio Tests
May 31, 1990
Trash Team Ending CCISD Raids
"I just felt the district was hiding information on Brio and Weber. I had to find a way to get my kids out of that school. I knew in time they would catch us. I just wish it had been later," said Steinsholt
June 7, 1990
Incineration Fight Starts
One of the problem with having mixed the chemicals in the pits or burning them together is they form new compounds. No one knows the health effects on people.
HUD/VA Insist on Southbend Sales
June 28, 1990
ATSDR Acknowledges Need for Health Study
Within the last six months, three outside independent agencies have called for further investigation of the Brio Superfund toxic waste dump including the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry.
USGS Says 250-foot Clay Layer Non-Existent
Members of the U.S. Geological Survey say the Brio Task Force's 250-foot impermeable clay buffer between aquifers simply does not exist. . . . "There is no evidence of a regional massive layer of clay between the top aquifers and the Chiquot aquifer -- the area drinking water source."
In March the Brio Task Force's public relations spokeswoman J.J. Goldman took out full page ads in several publications including the South Belt-Ellington Leader condemning the paper's news staff for publishing a story about aquifer contamination capable of reaching the drinking water.
VA Alters Southbend Policy
HUD Stops Southbend Loans
Learn Before Brio Burn
Before incineration begins at the Brio Superfund toxic waste site, an intense, accurate characterization of the site should take place because no one really knows what is buried there. . . .
What you have is a giant chemical soup at Brio and from the documentation I have seen, only a few compounds have been identified. If incineration is used, the people in charge must know what they are putting in the unit. . . .
"Any possible health effects, from the data I have reviewed, are not acute, but will be chronic," said Cook.
"You people have a heck of a problem. There are no simple answers, no simple solutions. It is impossible to fully clean up the Brio site. Some contamination will always remain."
Views Clash at Meeting
Two stormy sides of the Brio Superfund issue clashed outside the meeting room toward the end of the public meeting concerning incineration.
Poles apart in their attitudes and approaches to the toxic waste site, the leave-Southbend-along homeowners and mothers and the close-the-thing-down-and-move-our-children-from-Weber faction squared off in the walkway.
Some members of both groups let loose with their opinions on the others' actions and parentage. The pro-Southbend group brought along protest signs to make a statement.
The signs read: "Toxins aren't killing our neighborhood. Greedy people and the South Belt-Ellington Leader are!!!!"
The groups spend about 15 minutes jawing with each other on who was more stubborn, who had the real facts and who had Divine intervention.
Cutting to the root, the flare-up appeared to be two completely different groups with opposite vies on a very sensitive subject venting off strain and pressure.
August 9, 1990
Chemical Tests Indicate Brio Link
Recent test results darkened the nightmare for some Southbend families, but at the same time gave credence to danger of exposure from the Brio Superfund waste dump for neighborhood families. . . .
In addition to the chloroform found at 22 ppb, two other Brio site chemicals were located in the Southbend well water.
Ethylbenzene was found at a level of 5.8 ppb and xylenes at 69 ppb. Xylene and ethylbenzene are chemicals associated with styrene tar bottoms. Records show over 111 million pounds of styrene bottoms was taken to the site.
Editorial: Leader to the Blasted . . . Again
Whenever new information becomes available that counters what the Brio Task Force, J.J. Goldman, the Environmental Protection Agency and other various agencies have stated, the Leader has been blasted for scare tactics.
In regard for the latest developments with chloroform being found in urine samples and fatty tissue of a pet, a former, and three present Southbend residents, we would like to remind our readers we are in no way responsible for the chloroform either at the site, in the water, in the air or in the people.
August 16, 1990
Davis Children Leave Weber
Davis said he based his decision on the inability of anyone to explain "physical problems and abnormalities experience by residents of the Southbend subdivision."
Reports Vary on Weber/SouthbendDuring the same week Pilko and Associates issues its environmental report on Weber Elementary with all thumbs up, a toxic expert from Galveston blames the Brio Superfund site on contamination exposure of the Southbend residents.
Toxins Found in Children
Although the family no longer lives in Southbend, Ron and Nancy Webber had their children's blood tested for toxic chemicals.
They have a 6-year-old girl and a 2-year-old boy.
When the test results came back, the reality both parents were praying wouldn't happen came in black and white.
Dichloromethane (methylene chloride)
Testing Human Toxic Exposure Tough Job
Groundwater Threatened because of bad remediation plans
October 11, 1990
Brio Documents Place Toxics in Southbend
According to a draft report submitted in 1988, "The location of the chemicals indicate significant released of chemicals are coming from pits K and J, and lesser amounts from pit F. These chemicals have reached off-site location inside the Southbend subdivision.
October 18, 1990
M.U.D. Seeking Brio Intervention
"Incineration requires excavating buried toxic wastes, but this will release still more chemicals into the community. And the incineration will cause dangerous air pollution," said board officer Bill Jones.
"We are asking for a temporary protective cap over the site. A cap should been used years ago to prevent frequent floods and rain from carrying toxic chemicals deeper into the soil and underground water supplies."
"The cap is also necessary to prevent toxic chemicals from being swept offsite by floods into the community.
Pilko Backing Claim: Experts Begs to Differ
November 1, 1990
Doctor Urges New Brio Study:
ATSDR Questions Basis for No Health Risk
November 15, 1990
Residents Claim Conflict of Interest
Brio Newsletter Misleading
Brio Task Force, "It's Time to Move Ahead"
"The Brio Task Force Wants to Get on With It"
(gap in stacks)
picks back up Spring 1991
Health Study Group Leaves
Although a Southbend health stufy has not stopped, 90 percent of the 40 people working the survey moved or are in the process of moving from the subdivision after seeing the preliminary results.
April 11, 1991
Judge Signs Consent DecreeSouth Belt's future legacy as the home of the Brio toxic waste incinerator accelerated when a federal judge last Thursday signed the Consent Decree.
Health Problems Devastate South Canyon
19 South Canyon pregnancies
1 therapeutic abortion
18 lives births
7 birth defects (39%)
2 babies died from defects (11%)
13 of remaining 16 have chronic health problems
Health Problems Wreck South Canyon
April 25, 1990
Government Relinquishes Claim on Mortgage, Home
Families Fight Heartbreak of Lost Dream
For a long time Mark and Debbie Franze fought a mental battle within themselves over their children's health problems and living near the Brio Superfund toxic waste site.
They were convinced their children's problems were a cruel coincidence not related to Brio.
The federal government told them it could not be the site.
The Brio Site Task Force told them there was no health threat.
Everybody was just crying wolf because of the danger stigma attached to toxic waste.
But their children never got better.
May 9, 1991
ATSDR Supports Detailed Southbend Health Study
CCISD Issues Questionnaire Concerning Weber Future
Attorney Files Brio Appeal
May 30, 1991
Survey Favors Closing Weber
below the fold: Brio Mother Battles Rare Disease
Brio Legacy Goes Nationwide
Weber Monitor Diluted by Statistics
Brio Task Force Awards Remediation to ENRAC
As expected, the Brio Task Force awarded the Brio Superfund remediation design contract to a company known as one of the worse Environmental Agency regulation violaters.
July 11, 1991
CCISD May Close Weber
Weber Principal Resigns Positions
Anybody Seen the Brio Task Force?
Document Say Non-Existent
August 8, 1991
Settlement Disallows Medical Treatment
Two Families Leave Southbend Suit Over Deletion
H.E.L.P. Finds Abandoned Pit at USA Fields
Sageglen Families Transfer Children from Weber
August 15, 1991
Judge Refuses 'Brio' Settlement
Confusion by the parents over the $19 million centers around the dropping of a medical treatment program for the children. Farm and Home's attorney Lee Ware said the medical treatment aspect was never part of the settlement offer.
However, in a letter written by ad litem attorney Valerie Davenport, the plaintiffs were told medical treatment for the children was included.
Davenport was appointed representative for the children to ensure the children's best interests were addressed by the settlement.
August 29, 1991
Two Sides of the Issue
Children Must Survive Toxins and Attorneys
October 3, 1991
Federal Study Shows Health Risk
Report first to confirm claims of Southbend residents
Brio Remediation Plans Questioned
October 17, 1991
Ed Begley Jr. Comes to See Brio
November 7, 1991
Where Will Incinerator Be?
November 21, 1991
Health Study to Target Southbend
January 9, 1992
Weber to Close to August or Sooner
Brio Cases Have Days in Court This Week
Begley Asks, "What about the Southbend Children?
Drilling Starts at Brio Site; Air Monitored
March 19, 1992
EPA-Funded Report Blasts Brio Testing
Weber Elementary Closes -- Friday
Former Weber Principal, Staff File Lawsuit
Brio Incinerator Firm Hit with More Penalties
Incinerator to Burn Only 10% of Toxins
Health Study to Focus on Former Southbend Residents, Children
April 1992 (LA Riots photo to left) Volume numbers revert to 17 for the 1992 year
Monsanto Agrees to Pay $29 Million Settlement Locally
Medical Experts Detail Brio Health Problems
Brio Settlement a Landmark Deal
200 Southbend Residences Change Since January 1991
Total Southbend Buyout Considered
Weber Students Dies on June 25
Some Brio Plaintiffs Wants to Go to Trial
Brio Attorneys Settling by July 31 Deadline
Southbend Health Study Begins This Week
Southbend Developer Agreed to Buy Out Homes in 1987 Court Document
Toxic Exposure Experts Available at Oct. 14 Meeting
Acquisition of Southbend Homes Begins
More Problems Reported by Southbend Litigants
EPA Testing Starts in Southbend
New Administration Could Decide Against Toxic Incineration
Demise of a Subdivision Under Way in Southbend
One of the homeowners who chooses to remain in the subdivision is J.J. "Doc" Welby, who is attempting to revitalize the subdivision.
Welby has been making offers up to $10,000 to some of the homeowners who are not negotiating with Andrews and Kurth for their property.
He said he has a partner whose name he will not reveal.
One real estate expert said it is unlikely Welby will be able to get many of the homes. Most of the houses carry mortgages that are up to three or four years in arrears, and it is doubtful a mortgage company would allow transfer title without a substantial payment.
"(I'm) buying something that's going to waste, selling it someone that wants it and leeting them live their lives here," Welby said.
To date, no one has accepted his offer.
January 21, 1993
February 4, 1993
Brio Summit Monday, Tuesday
EPA, Brio Task Force refuse to come Tuesday
February 18, 1993
Demolition Set for Southbend
April 29, 1993
Southbend Health Study Due in 3 Months
Southbend Air Monitor Finds High Benzene
June 30, 1993
EPA Officials Lie at Congressional Hearing on Brio
July 15, 1993
Brio Incinerator Pieces Arriving
EPA to Stop Brio Contamination of Creek
And This is the Group We Trust to Oversee the Incineration?
As the Leader staff has frequently done when the BSTF and EPA release information, we double checked the information.
And what did we find? One of two numbers (plus 911) listed for the fire department was a number of Pearland convenience store.
Under the police department, same thing. One of two numbers (plus 911) was a convenience store -- only this was a different convenience store -- also in Pearland.
Call the ambulance numbers listed was no help either. Two numbers listed were called with different times. No answer!
Memorial Hospital Southeast is listed as Southwest Memorial Hospital.
Granted, everyone makes mistakes, but these people have our health and safety in their hands. They have been working on this for 10 years, and yet something so basic as knowing who to call if the place blows up gets pretty complicated.
About the only hope we have is to call 911 and pray for the best.
August 19, 1993
Southbend Pool Bites the Dust
Brio Emergency Plan Criticized by Experts
Brio Problems, Concerns Addressed
Brio Founder Sues Monsanto
DeLay Works with EPA to get Brio Emergency Plan
October 14, 1993
Fine, Evacuation, Shutdown Possible After Brio Emission
Brio Safety Officer Quits After Emission
October 21, 1993
Brio Emission Brings All Parties Together
October 28, 1993
Brio Safeguards Will Now Include Siren, Monitoring
November 11, 1993
EPA Report on Brio Supports Long-Held Community Concerns
Now, weeks short of the start-up of a giant toxic waste incinerator on the site, a Washington Environmental Protection Agency report issued Tuesday agrees with the community.
November 18, 1993
Brio Toxins Found in Clear Creek
(end of 1993 stack)
On my next trip to Houston I intend to get scans through 1994 to the end of the saga.
Spoiler alert: the incineration never happened.
January 15, 2015 is the latest report from the EPA regarding the current status of the site.
From this document:
Record of Decision (ROD)
Main cleanup components of the Amended ROD included:
Vertical Barrier Wall - A sub-grade barrier wall to limit the potential for off-Site migration of contaminated ground water in the NSCZ.
Site Cover - A composite cap including a gas collection layer, a flexible membrane liner,
compacted clay, and top soil to promote vegetative growth.
Groundwater Flow Control - A ground water pumping system to control the migration of Site contaminants.
Mud Gully – Improvements to the gully to allow for long-term maintenance and stability.
Construction completion was achieved on April 28, 2004.
The completion of the construction of the containment remedy in 2004 provided long-term reduction of risk to human health. The installation of the subsurface barrier wall and the groundwater control system ensured that contaminated groundwater is contained underneath the site and will not discharge into surface water. The multi-layer cover system over the site reduces the risk from direct contact with the residual wastes at the site.
The site is currently ready for anticipated use (non-residential). [emphasis mine.]
National Priorities Listing (NPL) History
Proposed Date: 10/05/1984
Final Date: 3/31/1989
Deletion Proposal Date: 06/23/2006
Final Deletion Date: 12/28/2006
Population: Approximately 3600 people live within the 2000 census tract surrounding the site.
Note above, the EPA controlled when Brio was placed on the NPL and when it would be scheduled for removal. It projected a 22 year span from proposal to deletion from the list and kept to that schedule. No one in the community had any control or say into this timeline.