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Discovery of oil-like substance in Port Arthur residential area prompts investigation

While things are being figured out, one homeowner is being left in limbo.

PORT ARTHUR, Texas — A mysterious liquid, thought to be crude oil, was found during the construction of a Port Arthur home. The unusual discovery has people asking questions.

Government agencies such as the Railroad Commission of Texas and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality are involved in the investigation.

The discovery of this crude oil has people who live on Lincoln Avenue concerned, and the big question they are wondering is where did it come from?

"For me, I just got to keep jumping from hotel to hotel because the rates keep going up and down because it's the summer season," said Lenneth Gardner.

What was supposed to be the start of construction for Lenneth Gardner’s new home has now turned into a nightmare.

Crude oil was discovered when construction crews began digging 8-foot holes.

The black sludgy liquid has a pungent smell and it's forced Gardner out of his home and into a hotel.

Now, he wants answers.

 “They found the oil, and they didn't really tell me [anything]. And then the fire department came, and they said they found something. That's about all I heard,” said Gardner. 

With nowhere to turn, he contacted Port Arthur activist Hilton Kelley, who is now also pressing for answers. 

“You can smell the oil from the street, very toxic,” Kelley said. “If the kids are breathing this in, if the neighbors are breathing this, it can make you very nauseous. Actually, raw crude contains carcinogens like benzene, one three benedyne, and other dangerous toxins that no one should be breathing, so it is a major concern.”

Now the TCEQ, the Railroad Commission, and the City of Port Arthur are all looking into mysterious oil.

Port Arthur City Manager Ronald Burton told 12News "no immediate hazard to the local citizens has been identified". 

But not everyone is convinced. 

“If we get torrential rains, and these holes start to fill up, then what's going to happen,” Kelley said. “We all know oil floats, this oil is going to float into the street and down the road and into the sewer line.”

As several state agencies continue to investigate Gardner is left in limbo wondering what's next.

“Waiting for his house to be built, now that is not going to be done for some time,” Kelley said. “It seems due to this oil spill underneath the property. We don't know what it going to happen to the homeowner exactly at this point and time. I do feel our state and government should work with this gentleman to relocate him if he chooses to, since it will be a while before this land is cleared of this oil.”

Construction has been put on pause as the TCEQ and several other state agencies are working to get answers.

Statement from TCEQ 

During ongoing residential development at 1010 Lincoln Avenue facilitated by the Texas General Land Office, oil-like liquid substances were encountered in pier soil borings. The City Fire Department responded to the scene. Both the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and the Texas Railroad Commission were notified and have also responded. The location has been secured. No immediate hazard to the local citizens has been identified. State environmental regulatory officials are pursuing further investigation of this incident. Additional information may be obtained by contacting the Houston District Office of the Texas Railroad Commission at (713) 869­5001 or the TCEQ Public Communication Office at (512) 239-5000.

Statement from the Railroad Commission of Texas

The RRC, which was notified last week, is investigating and has had a pipeline inspector onsite. Preliminary findings do not support the source of the liquid as coming from a pipeline.

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