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Rail News: Union Pacific Railroad

EPA outlines path for cleanup at UP's former wood-tie treatment site


At the request of Union Pacific Railroad and community representatives, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has issued a general notice letter outlining a path toward future activities at the former Houston Wood Preserving Works site, UP announced yesterday.

UP voluntarily sought action under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA), which is commonly linked to Superfund sites, UP officials said in a press release. The EPA takes the lead at those sites, identifying responsible parties and often taking direct action to clean up the site.

That is not the case at the former wood-tie preserving site, where UP has conducted remediation for decades. Instead, the EPA's use of CERCLA will enable UP to take actions more quickly, UP officials said.

Work at the site has been and will continue to be performed at UP's expense, they added.

"Union Pacific is grateful to the EPA and welcomes this step to collaboratively develop solutions with our community partners, under the EPA’s guidance, for the long-term benefit of the neighborhood," said Clint Schelbitzki, UP's assistant vice president of public affairs.

UP and representatives from the city of Houston, Harris County and the Bayou City Initiative in 2022 began discussions toward an agreement on measures to remediate the site.

Since acquiring the property, UP has:

• installed over 120 wells at the site and in the neighboring Fifth Ward;

• pumped and removed creosote from wells on- and off-site;

• capped a significant amount of creosote-contaminated soil on the site; and

• monitored groundwater to understand and address the extent of contamination.

EPA officials met regularly with the city, the state, nonprofit organizations and community groups to develop a feasible solution for the site, agency officials said in an online year-end review.