Several Waxahachie residents became intrigued by unknown personnel in "hazmat suits" milling about the land where the Tyler Refrigeration plant was once located.

And it turns out those individuals included a geologist and subcontractors of Ensafe. The group was suited in protective gear to protect themselves from dust and caustic chemicals used to treat the land.

Ensafe has spearheaded the environmental cleanup project on the campus since 2005.

Myra Hart, a senior project manager and geologist for Ensafe, told the Daily Light, "The work out there addresses contamination groundwater, and we are out there twice a year monitoring. There's a remediation system in place that has been approved the TECQ [Texas Commission on Environmental Quality]."

The company uses a number of methods that were described as "technical." Hart elaborated on one of the many techniques saying groundwater flows through a treatment barrier.

"These contaminants kind of attenuate over time and get lower and lower in concentration over time," Hart ensured.

Hart was not able to give an exact percentage of improvement since that information is not presented to her but said that information could be obtained through an open records request through the TECQ.

Residents with private water wells are checked twice a year, and those individuals are provided with the results.

Hart said the current working crew consists of a geologist and other subcontractors who are working to enhance the barrier system to make it more efficient. Hart said local residents were made aware of the treatment "a long time ago."

The Tyler Refrigeration plant that previously consumed the property manufactured heating/cooling air conditioning systems. Hart said the operations used trichloroethylene (TCE), which has contaminated the ground along with the daughter products of that chemical.

TCE is a halocarbon commonly used as an industrial solvent. The matter is clear, non-flammable liquid with a sweet smell.

TYLER REFRIGERATION

Though the plant was demolished, an office building still stands on the corner of Textile and Circle Streets.

Becky Kauffman, chair of the Waxahachie Preservation Commission, said the group has done its best to obtain the structure in order to preserve it. Kauffman is also heavily active in Historic Waxahachie Inc. and noted the nonprofit made a presentation in 2015 to the previous owner of the land and were shot down.

"My main goal is to save it," Kauffman said.

She was informed that the building does have contamination under it, and a ventilation system would be required to be installed under the floor.

"The little building is interesting," Kauffman detailed. "This building is I think one of two left in town made of Haydock blocks. This building is made of that kind of block, but the outside face looks like rustic stone."

Inside the office is a safe that was barricaded by a "big, heavy metal, beautiful door" that was stolen.

Kauffman noted the little houses onthe land formerly housed millers that worked at the plant.

"If you take a step back, you can tell that they were built to all look exactly alike," she elaborated. "They have been altered through the years. And then the field where the housing project is, that was built in the 50s. That was filled with millers houses. I mean filled."

Kauffman said the City of Waxahachie did not want the land and that it was prohibited for any activities that included children. She also noted that residents should not dig on it.

Kauffman also noted that she lives off Main Street and that a test well is located on the east side of her property. She observed people test the well.

BEFORE TYLER REFRIGERATION

Before the property was taken over by Tyler Refrigeration, Waxahachie Cotton Mills Company consumed the land.

In the turn of the century, cotton played an essential role in the early development of Ellis County, which was dubbed as the "Banner Cotton County for the World," according to the Waxahachie CVB. As a result, many cotton related industries were established in the town.

In 1900, the population of Waxahachie was 4,215 when the construction of Waxahachie Cotton Mills began.

"The development included the surrounding 24 mill houses (homes for the workers), company store, church, school and bachelor house," according to Ellis County Museum records.

By 1901, the mill company opened its doors to produce finished cotton products. This was one of the first in Texas. Ten prominent families put up the capital of $100,000 to start the factory and 104 stockholders who were citizens of Ellis County owned the mill.

The factory housed "500 spindles and 150 looms and utilized 4,000 to 5,000 bales of cotton per year — all produced in Ellis County," according to museum records. The primary products produced was "single file ducking" used for awnings, tents, sacks and all other canvas type products. A secondary product was toweling cloth.

The concrete block office that still stands was constructed in 1904 because of the excessive noise from the factory.

The production capacity of the mill doubled with new additions by 1907 and the capitalization of the mill was raised to $250,000. The mill brought "millions of dollars" per year to the local community.

As the Great Depression hit in the 1930s, the demand for cotton significantly decreased, and most gins and textile mills were forced to close.

Museum documents relayed, "The building was vacant until sold to Tyler Refrigeration between 1942 and 1948."

By 2001, Tyler Refrigeration began to move its operations out of the mill.

Linda Roark, who served on the Texas Historical Commission, visited the site and declared the mill "may be the last cotton mill property remaining in the state."

That same year, Tyler Refrigeration recognized there were possible Environmental Protection Agency issues that had to be cleared to make the property safe for future use.

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Ashley Ford | @aford_news | 469-517-1450