An investigative report by CHANNEL 5 NEWS has found that hundreds of McAllen families are currently housed over a highly unstable substance that is floating on top of groundwater under 23rd Street.
One Spark Could Result in Disaster
According to KRGV, the substance is the same that triggered a series of explosions in Guadalajara, Mexico in 1992 and has contaminated roughly 33 acres – on of the largest areas of contamination on record in the United States.
The gas had gathered into an underground plume, similar to that observed in McAllen, before seeping in to the city’s sewer system. After a spark ignited the leak, disaster occurred.
In total, 206 Guadalajara residents died, five hundred were hurt and fifteen thousand were left homeless.
Gas explosions are not the only concern; tests also revealed high levels of Benzene vapors, a known carcinogen. The Benzene vapors can potentially travel through soil and spread through people homes – some residents claim this has already happened.
At least two children on the same street have been diagnosed with leukemia, and one, 6-year-old Nuvia Ozuna, has died. The girl’s parents are claiming that Benzene vapors were the cause of the disease.
Confusion as to What Caused the Contamination
While no one has been able to positively identify what caused the chemical contamination, there are currently three possible sources.
The first potential culprit is spilled fuel from trains. According to reports, diesel and gasoline have been leaked and spilled from trains traveling along tracks owned by Union Pacific for decades – the company has admitted that they are partially at fault.
The second possible source is an area gas station. Some are claiming that a leak from underground fuel tanks at a Coastal Mart which resulted in a 37,000 gallon plume could also be linked to the contamination. The spill reportedly took 14 years and $1 million to clean up.
The final possible source is a natural gas pipeline that runs through south McAllen. Documents from the gas company published in 1989 showed that leaks around the McAllen area were linked to contaminated soil and could cause problems.
While the owner of the gas line claims that the pipes were repaired, a 2004 video shows signs of leakage and later photos showed holes in the pipelines.