Friday, August 06, 2010

Wismer Drive Eyesore and Health Hazard Site

There is a piece of property on Wismer Drive between Business SH-146 and Alexander Drive that looks like a cross between a swamp and a hazardous waste site.  Standing water, animal bones, dead trees and millions of mosquitoes inhabit this dead zone, as a friend has labeled it.  It stinks also.  It seriously stinks and since the area has no reason to stop and look, no one stops for a look.

The area has become a topic of discussion on local crime-fighting web forum, of which I am a long time member.  I’ve taken the liberty to write the city government, especially district 6 Councilman, David McCartney and the mayor to find out what can be done to remediate this area.

In a letter in response to a complaint about this property, Storm Water Coordinator for the city of Baytown, Gerardo V. Ruiz, along with Mr. Carroll Mayfield, from the Railroad Commission of Texas (oil field regulators) and Mr. Tom Fereday, representative for Otex Resources, the oil field property owner wrote this about the area:

“I inspected the oil wells and storage tanks for signs of a recent oil spill or leak but found no evidence of such. Otex Resources does not own the land at the intersection of Wismer and South Highway 146, but it too had no evidence of a recent oil spill. The conditions that are found at that property appear to be a result of the topography of the land and not a result of a recent incident. According to Mr. Carroll, the loss of vegetation on the site appears to be from an influx of salt water many years ago.

However, Mr. Fereday expressed the desire to find the lot owner and work with him or her to clean up the area and achieve a permanent fix that will allow the property to drain properly and not hold water.

The property is not ascetically pleasing but no major environmental health violations exist at this time. The standing water does not appear to contain any crude oil and it is not breeding mosquitoes. I will have our public works department drainage division inspect the storm drains in the immediate area to ensure that they are not obstructed and functioning correctly. Clear storm drains may help reduce the quantity of standing water in the area. I will follow up with Otex Resources about the cleanup efforts and will provide updates as they become available.”

I was deep into this area this past May, looking for a geocache of all things and it is the nastiest place in Baytown.  I came home and washed my clothes and tennis shoes afterward and I made a video tape of the heavy mosquito activity.  The area is indeed a breeding ground for mosquitoes and thus a significant health hazard.

Mr. Ruiz’s statement “but no major environmental health violations exist at this time. The standing water does not appear to contain any crude oil and it is not breeding mosquitoes.” Although accurate at their visit is inaccurate as I have video proof and photos.

I am appealing to our city government and District 6 councilman Mr. McCartney in particular, to rectify this situation.  Because of the stagnant surface water, mosquito breeding site, and rotting debris, it poses a serious health and safety issue and needs clear and up to date responses to the public in general.


Anonymous said...

As member of the City Beautification Committee - I agree that this property deserves action which leads to a permanent drainage solution - which hopefully would allow beneficial vegitation to grow again... When I have asked about this property - just as you did - it was the opinion of those involved that this was a result of natural occurrences of nature - I have a hard time with that answer as I salso spend quite a bit of time in nature and have never seen or smelled anything like this area...

Keep up the good work Bert !

Anonymous said...

Good job, keep up the pressure.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Bert for the information on this property. I also wondered what the deal is with this mess.

Anonymous said...

Bert, We are looking into this; however, there is another side to this story. I have always know you to be fair so I would ask that you give us a little time to give you both sides. Thanks,
Garry Brumback, ICMA-CM
City Manager

Baytown Bert said...

Absolutely! I am simply asking to be updated until we reach a happy and satisfactory rectification.

Anonymous said...

OK I have lived here all my life and couldn’t figure out WISMER DRIVE since I only knew WISMER from the beer distributor off SOUTH MAIN (then I saw the map) and dag gone it…I grew up right there off ALEXANDER and those woods were OUR PLAY GROUND. But I never knew the name of that little stretch of street…But Long story short…THAT AREA has been a DEAD ZONE for as long as I can remember when they cut that road thru there. And I don’t believe the Salt water crap……Those oil wells when we played back there were everywhere and this is prob a dead zone from back there that nothing will ever grow.

THE woods on across 146 from there has more abandoned wells and beautiful woods that was our daily retreat growing up. HELL FIGHTERS was filmed in those woods (the jungle scenes) and we spent many a day ruining their scenes by popping up at the wrong time until they just invited us little kids and gave us our SPECIAL area to watch from to keep us out of the trees. Hahahah we would GI JOE our way thru the thickest stuff to see JOHN WAYNE..hahahahah And he would be the only one laughing and not kicking us out…AW MEMORIES>…..of the woods.

But Dead ZONE is a great name for it…and I bet no one can remember it green………..I swear it was like that since I was a kid (but that lake across from it was a sand pit) BDP

Anonymous said...


Joni said...

Thanks so much Bert.. I drive past this area many days a week, and always wonder why no one has come forward to complain or clean it up. Glad we have you on our side.

Is there anything the Citizens can do? (Other than slog thru it... I'm not touching that stuff!)

Anonymous said...

Bert - I contacted City Manager Brumback to make sure he was aware of the situation you described in your blog and he informed me the City is knowledgeable of this area and working on the matter. Thanks for keeping an eye out for all of us.
Terry Sain

Anonymous said...

Bert, Mike Lester jumped on the issue and, along with Public Works has made great strides…note that they have already removed the dam and will complete the rest of the work on Monday.

Thanks for bringing this to our attention!

Garry Brumback, ICMA-CM
City Manager

Anonymous said...

From Mike Lester via Garry Brumback:
I conducted an “on-site” inspection this morning with Gerardo Ruiz, Storm Water Phase II Coordinator and Manuel Razo, Street Maintenance Supervisor, the following is what was determined during the inspection.

Location: Wismer Road from Old Alexander to HWY 146:

- Approximately half way down on the ‘west’ side of Wismer the retaining wall for the Retention Pond (on private property) has failed and the pond has drained into the road side drainage (water is about 3-5 feet deep)

- Approximately 2/3 of the way down on the ‘east’ side of Wismer is the “Dead Zone” area reported by Mr. Marshall, this area routinely holds water and periodically receives complaints concerning standing water, pollution and poor drainage

- At the intersection of Wismer / Hwy 146 on the ‘west’ side the road side drainage ditch has been “dammed” by beavers, this has caused the water in the road side ditch to hold the 3-5 feet of water depth and subsequently causing the water to ‘backflow’ through the underground drainage pipe to the ‘east’ side “Dead Zone” elevating the water depth to about 6 to 18 inches, this pond area is supporting minnows, frogs, at least one 5 foot snake and a couple of turtles, this aquatic life would be considered natural mosquito control and was confirmed by no indication of mosquito larvae or pupae alone the side of the pond area

- there are at least two beavers involved and they are probably residing in both the ‘retention pond’ area and the “Dead Zone” area based on food sources

- Please note that the beavers would not dam the area if the water or the area was ‘polluted’ the animals are very particular with their environment

-Planned action to resolve the immediate standing water issue and provide a long term solution to the drainage in the area:

- the beaver dam will be removed today (Friday, 08/06/10) by Public Works crews with a backhoe, this will allow the area to drain

- the retaining wall on the road side ditch will be repaired with reserve riprap by PW crews next week to insure the integrity of the road side drainage ditch

- the ‘west side’ road side drainage will be reviewed and maintained (cleaned up) as necessary next week by PW

- the ‘east side’ drainage will be improved in the area of the ”Dead Zone” to insure the area will properly drain to the drainage inlets in the future

Again the area is a natural water holding area and the dead trees are indicative of both long term standing water and salt water poisoning from years past. The Health Dept. has had a number of complaints over the last 10 years related to the Oil Company located near Old Alexander and Wismer but to date has never been able to confirm any releases that would have impacted the above area.

Please advise if additional information is needed or if additional action should be taken.

Also note that the quick actions to resolve this issue is being done by the Public Works Dept. thanks to Daryl’s “Get it done” philosophy.

Sheila Winchester said...

I think this is a great example of citizen activism and what can be accomplished if someone cares enough to take the time to contact local government. I also think it's a good example of local government listening to the concerns of their citizens and taking action. Thanks to all involved. Burt - as always, you're awesome - and I'm so glad that you love this city!
Sheila Winchester

Anonymous said...

Maybe they could rent the area out to movie production sites...ya know for the scene of a post apocalyptic world where NOTHING is living and only the dead things crawl around and try to eat your brains..but unfortunately for the actors like John Wayne the funk that is there contaminating the area will probably kill them. I remember when they dug that huge pit on the other side of the road and then rumors of it being used as a land fill and the fight against it, my father and us used to go that route when we would drive to Pasadena, before the Fred Hartman was built and we went thru the Baytown tunnel. Sad to see an area where everything is dead.

Anonymous said...

So much misinformation...the area did not become a "dead zone" until sometime in 1999-2000 when the disposal well near the site went into operation. Now that the site is drained it is easy to see the salt deposit's (the white soil)left on the soil by evaporation. The source of the salt water is what has escaped either intentionally or accidentally from the salt water disposal well very near the site into that low laying area. Of course it is mixed with the rain water and diluted. Pure salt water would leave much larger salt crystals. It may not be a health hazard but it certainly did kill all the vegetation and tree's in that area and should be remediated by the responsible party. i.e. contaminated soil removed and replaced with good soil and tree's planted. The land is owned by Metro Bank, Houston. The pit across the street was dug for the footing work on Fred Hartman bridge and was suppose to have been replaced after the completion of the bridge. I guess it would have cost WB construction too much. Bert thanks for highlighting the problem.

This tariff business ain't going away

I read Steve Showalter's opinion piece in Wednesday's Sun and I posted a comment in response. If you recall he is qualified ...