Soil samples taken from the quarantined area at Mount Carmel earlier this month have shown a much larger contaminated area than original tests indicated.
Larry Fergusson, water program manager at the Texas Natural Resources Conservation Commission, said Thursday that 24 samples taken Sept. 1 showed additional areas of lead contamination near the site of the former Branch Davidian compound.
Fergusson said it is likely that bulldozers spread the lead contamination, although the TNRCC is not sure that is the cause.
Bulldozers razed the area immediately after the April 19 fire that leveled the two-story compound.
At least 80 people died in the April blaze.
“The bulldozing cut ruts into the ground,” Fergusson said. “The lead may have been spread then.”
The lead contamination started with the fire, he said.
“The fire created intense heat that in turn created an explosion of ammunition casings,” Fergusson said.
Officials with TNRCC found exploded cartridges, jackets from projectiles, jacketed projectiles without lead cores and projectiles where the lead cores were in the process of melting and leaking from the jackets, Fergusson said.
“The lead simply melted,” he said.
The soil testing has shown lead contamination as deep as 19 inches into the soil in some places.
“This indicates that the soil was quite wet immediately following the 51-day period,” Fergusson said, referring to the 51-day federal siege of the compound.
Although TNRCC officials are not certain how much soil is contaminated, Fergusson said they are sure the only contaminated areas are inside the quarantined part.
State health officials have quarantined the area since summer.
They cited untreated sewage, standing water where mosquitoes could breed and debris where rats could live.
Officials initially quarantined the entire property but later reduced the area to just around the former compound.
Fergusson said TNRCC officials don’t plan to expand the quarantine area.
“We are confident that all affected areas are well within the fenced perimeter,” he said.
The findings suggest that new areas will be included in bid requests to clean up the compound. They also show the need for more tests to ensure the clean-up is done right, Fergusson said.
To date, about 45 spots have been tested for lead in the soil, water and background.
Potential bidders can walk through the contaminated area Sept. 29 to see if they are interested in the job.
Bid will be reviewed by the state, the Treasury Department and the Justice Department.