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EPA and State of Texas Declare Federal Property in Masterson “Ready for Reuse”

Release Date: 06/29/2010
Contact Information: Joe Hubbard at 214-665-2208 or r6press@epa.gov

(Dallas, Texas – June 29, 2010) Today the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) commemorated the issuance of a “ready for reuse” determination for the former Exell Helium Plant (Exell) in Masterson, Texas. The determination is the first to be issued to a U.S. Department of the Interior facility nationally.

The “ready for reuse” determination, awarded by EPA and TCEQ, verifies the environmental conditions at the property are protective of human health and the environment for its current and future commercial/industrial use.

Bill Luthans, Deputy Director of EPA Region 6’s Multimedia Planning and Permitting Division, stated, “We're pleased to partner with the State of Texas to deem properties such as this ready for reuse. Providing assurance to stakeholders that site conditions are protective helps return previously contaminated areas to productive use, which is a major goal of our cleanup programs.”

A “ready for reuse” determination provides, in a straightforward manner, specific information about a site, including the nature and extent of contamination, the cleanup work performed, and the status of the property with respect to federal and state requirements.

Brent Wade, Director of the TCEQ Remediation Division, said, “TCEQ is pleased to have been a close partner with the Bureau of Land Management during the environmental cleanup of the Exell Helium Plant. The Exell Helium Plant Ready for Reuse Certification signifies a major milestone towards the revitalization of this property.”

Today’s event acknowledges the success of cleaning the Exell property formerly occupied by the U.S. Bureau of Mines to protective levels for future use. The facility is located about 30 miles north of Amarillo, Texas, and one mile southwest of Masterson off U.S. Highway 287. The plant, which occupies 229 acres, was originally constructed in 1942-1943 by the federal government and processed its first helium on March 13, 1943. When other wartime plants curbed operations in 1951, Exell became the federal helium program’s lead producer.

Congress’ decision in 1996 to privatize the helium industry effectively terminated the government’s involvement in helium production. With the downsizing of the federal government and the privatization of certain operations, the Bureau of Mines’ helium activities permanently ceased its operations in 1998 and the government’s remaining helium operations were moved under the BLM. The BLM intends to dispose of the property per federal property management regulations.

“Working with our partners was a great experience – we were able to find the most cost-effective ways to clean up the plant,” said Linda Rundell, State Director for the Bureau of Land Management. “We were able to recycle most of the concrete that had been disposed of over the years, plus a variety of other materials, saving the government almost $2 million, compared to disposing the materials outright.”

The concrete was crushed and mixed with sand to improve primitive roads in the BLM’s nearby Cross Bar property and other materials were used on public lands in New Mexico, Rundell added. The remediation effort was needed because the government had disposed of wastes on the property (including volatile organic compounds) well before environmental legislation was enacted to change the way wastes could be disposed of.
On May 6, 2009, the TCEQ issued a Conditional Certificate of Completion under the Texas Voluntary Cleanup Program, and the joint “ready for reuse” determination was issued on May 24, 2010, by the EPA and TCEQ.

More information about “ready for reuse” is available at: www.epa.gov/earth1r6/ready4reuse

More about activities in EPA Region 6: http://www.epa.gov/region6

EPA audio file is available at: http://www.epa.gov/region6/6xa/podcast/jun2010.html

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