Bryan City Council approve Municipal Setting Designation to address contaminated groundwater in parts of city

The city council approved an ordinance Tuesday night as the state continues to review their application.
Published: Mar. 9, 2021 at 1:53 PM CST|Updated: Mar. 9, 2021 at 8:25 PM CST
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BRYAN, Texas (KBTX) -The Bryan City Council approved a new ordinance at their meeting Tuesday. Last year the city began the process of submitting what’s known as a Municipal Setting Designation with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

The city wants to establish an MSD to address contaminated groundwater in parts of the city on about 1,300 acres of land including in Downtown Bryan, the Travis Bryan Midtown Park and some adjacent areas.

“Well my concern is that the groundwater contamination may be more extensive than many people know and with the proposed MSD and ordinance associated with it people will have limited use of their property,” said Robert Rose, a Bryan resident.

“I’m concerned about the impact on the property owners as well as potentially property values and I’m concerned about the risk for public health if people do have contact with groundwater and if that could lead to health concerns,” said Rose.

City staff say the MSD would only have restrictions on the groundwater usage. People would still be able to use land for things like gardening and installing swimming pools.

“The city is looking into an MSD to try to spur development, redevelopment of properties here in Bryan. MSD is a state law that tries to address properties that have contaminated groundwater,” said Mark Jurica, Bryan Treatment and Compliance Manager.

Testing has shown arsenic has contaminated groundwater in the area in question. It comes from industrial pollution in the past including the former Elf Atochem Pesticide plant, currently known as the Arkema site. The arsenic levels exceed safe drinking water standards. If approved the ordinance would prohibit accessing groundwater up to 100 feet in depth for drinking, showering / bathing, cooking or irrigation of crops for human consumption.

“The MSD boundaries are based on three known properties. Two of them are owned by the City of Bryan in Downtown and the other one is owned by the Arkema project,” said Jurica.

The city council looks at a new ordinance Tuesday night.
The city council looks at a new ordinance Tuesday night.(Clay Falls)

Residents have expressed concerns to KBTX about the MSD designation. If the MSD is approved by the state, property owners would not be able to use that water for potable, drinking, purposes. There are currently no water wells in that area and the environmental issue is not impacting drinking water, according to city staff.

“Citizens should not have concern for the drinking water in Bryan. Our drinking water sources come from close to 2,000 feet beneath the surface and are not part of the MSD area. There are not water wells within the MSD area,” said Jurica.

The city council will take a look at adopting the ordinance during their second regular meeting at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 9.

KBTX reached out to TCEQ regarding remediation in the contaminated area. They say groundwater treatment and monitoring are ongoing at the former Arkema site. Monitoring activities indicate that the groundwater contamination is stable and not expanding.

TCEQ has issued more than 180 MSD’s across the state. Most have been in the Dallas / Fort Worth and Houston Metro areas.

They told us once they receive additional information requested they have 45 days to complete their review.

TCEQ sent us the following information regarding MSD’s with more information here.

A municipal setting designation is an official designation given to a property within a municipality or its extraterritorial jurisdiction that certifies that designated groundwater at the property is not used as potable water and is prohibited from future use because the groundwater is contaminated in excess of the applicable potable-water protective concentration level. The prohibition must be in the form of a city ordinance, or a restrictive covenant that is enforceable by the city and filed in the property records. The TCEQ can certify an MSD application only if there is local city support.

The TCEQ received an MSD application from the City of Bryan on Sept. 15, 2020. The TCEQ reviewed the proposed application and provided comments on Nov. 17, 2020 noting items that need to be addressed (e.g., ordinance or restrictive covenant, notifications, additional water well information, etc).

We have a previous story on environmental issues at the Bryan Municipal Lake here.

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