Texas Water Commission crew members tested the water and grounds of Mount Carmel on Friday morning to determine if hazardous materials exist, an official with the agency said.
The environmental samples taken at the former Branch Davidian compound will help officials determine how to direct cleanup efforts, said Larry Fergusson, district manager of the District 3 office in Waco.
“We sent a four-man crew out to take samplings of the soil and sewage,” Fergusson said. “We’re trying to characterize what we have out there in preparation for the final cleanup of the area.”
Samples taken Friday will go to a contract laboratory in Richardson to be tested, he said. The results should be available by Thursday.
At least 77 cult members died in a fire at the compound on April 19, following a 51-day standoff with federal authorities.
“The waste and materials out there now could very well be of a hazardous nature and present an environmental threat,” he said. “That’s what we need to find out. If everything’s all right, we’ll be able to get on with the actual cleanup.”
Last week the Texas Department of Health quarantined the site because of a concern that people who walk through the area could be exposed to communicable diseases like hepatitis A or cholera from the waste.
Texas Department of Public Safety troopers are continuing to guard the grounds as a safety measure, Fergusson said.
The clean-up effort will include the removal of human sewage, combustible debris and large supplies of rotting food. Other debris will be buried, he said.
Earlier in the week, Health Department officials, the Air Control Board, Water Commission representatives and other agencies met to outline concerns pertaining to the compound, appoint the agencies that will be in charge of the clean-up effort and define the various roles, he said.
Fergusson estimates the clean-up will take about a week to complete. Work will be done by contractors hired by the Water Commission, and could begin as early as Monday, he said.
In other cult-related matters Friday, medical examiners released the name of another body found in the charred ruins of the compound.
The body was that of Evette Fagan, 32, of the United Kingdom. She was the wife of Livingston Fagan.
Examiners ruled her preliminary cause of death as smoke inhalation; however, they said they could not rule out a gunshot wound.