(NaturalNews) A local news team in McAllen, Texas, is reporting that hundreds of families in the region are sitting atop a substance believed to be highly toxic and explosive, just one of a series of recent reports from around the country that appear to signal an uptick in toxic spills tied to the energy industry.
According to a report by McAllen's NEWSCHANNEL 5, an ABC affiliate, investigative journalists recently discovered a substance found floating on top of groundwater under a street in McAllen. The team took a soil sample from nearby and reported that, "with one spark, it went up in flames."
"It's a disaster," Scott McClain, one of two attorneys who are trying to get the area cleaned up, told the affiliate. "Something has to be done about this."
He and attorney Richard Roth said the affected area is around 23rd Street and Business 83, an area that is home to more than 200 families. In all, that amounts to about 33 acres, the ABC affiliate, KRGV, reported.
"It's floating underneath McAllen," Roth said, noting that he and McClain have filed a lawsuit on behalf of the affected region's families.
McClain added, "This stuff is highly flammable. If any spark were to get to it, it could explode."
And, as reported by KRGV:
That's exactly what happened in 1992 in Guadalajara, Mexico. The very same substance we pulled from the ground in McAllen leaked into the sewer system there, triggering a series of explosions.
Two-hundred-six people died. Five hundred were hurt. Fifteen thousand people were left homeless.
"That town literally blew up," Roth said.
According to the ABC affiliate, an internal document from the Texas Railroad Commission indicates that McAllen city employees have reported smelling fumes in the sewers. The document also says that workers reported noticing an odor of natural gas while installing water lines.
"It puts them in danger if a pipeline were to explode," said Roth.
Both attorneys said, however, that there is an additional danger in the ground -- the toxic chemical benzene.
"The benzene vapors can travel through soil, get into people's homes, and cause leukemia," said McClain.
That may have already happened, the affiliate reported.
City resident Gracie Ozuna said her daughter, Nuvia, was just two years old when she was diagnosed with leukemia. She died when she was six.
"Nuvia was a very special child," said Ozuna. "Losing her was like a knife straight through my heart. But I know she's with God. And one day I'll be with her again."
The report said another girl down the street from Nuvia also contracted leukemia, but she survived. Roth says he believes more people are liable to get sick in the future.
"People [are] getting cancer from being in their house," he told the station.
Besides McAllen, other spills...
What's worse, perhaps, is that no one can seem to agree upon where the pollution is coming from, but experts cite three possibilities, KRGV reported:
-- Spilled fuel. "For decades, diesel and gasoline spilled from the trains on tracks owned by Union Pacific. According to the state, the company admits they're partially at fault," the affiliate said.
-- Gas stations. "Leaking underground fuel tanks at the old Coastal Mart on 23rd Street caused the 37,000 gallon plume," the report said, adding that the cleanup from that leak took 14 years and cost $1 million.
-- Leaky pipelines. In 2004, the attorneys took video of pipelines. The owner of the natural gas pipelines said they were welded shut, but in a subsequent test using green testing liquid, the pipes remained leaky.
In other recent toxic spill incidents:
North Carolina. "At least 30,000 tons of arsenic-laced coal ash were released into North Carolina's Dan River in early February when a pipe broke under Duke Energy Corp's 27-acre (11-hectare) ash pond. Officials found a second leak on Feb. 10," Reuters reported. The EPA will decide in May on changes to the Clean Water Act that will require power companies to remove dangerous substances, including carcinogens, from coal ash wastewater before releasing it into rivers that also supply drinking water.
West Virginia. "On January 9, a chemical storage tank on the bank of West Virginia's Elk River leaked approximately 10,000 gallons of 4-methyl-cyclohexane-methanol (MCHM), a chemical used to process coal, into the river just 1.5 miles upstream of the drinking water intake for 300,000 people in" the capital of Charleston, reported Circle of Blue, an organization that focuses on threats to the world's water resources. The result: For days, residents were not permitted to use local water sources for anything -- drinking, washing clothes, even showering.
Two months later, many residents are still afraid to drink from taps.