Airport and county officials are looking to address a potential environmental contamination issue at North Texas Regional Airport — Perrin Field that dates back at least a decade. The issue was brought up Thursday morning during a meeting of the Grayson County Regional Mobility Authority.
State regulators first raised concerns of possible contamination at a building near the current US Aviation Flight School, but it was only recently that additional testing was done.
“I just wanted to be sure that the board knew what was going on,” GCRMA board chair Robert Brady said. “I think (Assistant Grayson County District Attorney) Craig (Price) and I talked about this and it isn’t like we can say that we can ignore that.”
The issue first arose when an environmental firm put in temporary wells at the building, which previously was used as an armaments facility when the airport was still an active U.S. Air Force base, consultant Sheri Larson said. Following the decommissioning of the military base, the building was used by Texas Instruments and later for various aeronautic uses.
The initial samples at the site returned positive tests for high concentrations of some contaminants. Among the chemicals found were total petroleum hydrocarbons, which result from crude oil and the production of petroleum products. The tests also found volatile organics that are a result of solvent use and metals, Larson said.
Regulators asked the airport to install permanent wells at the site for additional testing, but this never took place until recently when regulators returned to the topic.
“The airport didn’t do anything for about 10 years, and the state got heavy with you all and sent you a letter and said you better do something,” Larson said.
The airport drilled several wells at the site in the last few months, and the secondary tests returned results that were within the acceptable range. However, regulators then asked for additional tests to be done on a pipeline that appeared on schematics and design documents for the building.
Larson said the contents of the pipe showed signs of both contaminants, with some potentially dating back to the 1950s. Larson said TI also is known to have used solvents similar to those discovered at the site.
The pipeline runs from the building onto a neighboring, undeveloped property and emptied onto it with no containment. The site showed signs of drainage and plant growth that indicates water collects on the site. If any chemicals exited the pipe, they would likely end up in this source of water, Larson said.
Larson said officials plan to bore a hole down to ground water and take additional soil samples at the site for further testing. Airport officials said the first tests cost about $15,000, while this second round is expected to cost about $18,000. Larson said the next phase of testing will be small, with additional steps taken if contamination is found.
“If we get lucky, and it is clean, then we can stop,” she said. “We may not get lucky and it might not be clean.”
Officials briefly discussed who would pay for any costs related to the contamination, with TI and the U.S. government as possibilities. Larson said the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was initially approached about financing the project, but declined. This, however, may change if the scope of work shifts, she said.
Other questions that have yet to be answered include what brought the initial environmental firm to the site 10 years ago and what were they testing for, Larson said.
Are you concerned about the situation at NTRA? Let Michael Hutchins, the local government reporter for the Herald Democrat know at firstname.lastname@example.org or @mhutchinsHD on Twitter.