Putting the "Muck" in Muckraker As Caraway Leads Expedition to Columbia Packing Plant

Categories: Schutze

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Dallas City Councilman Dwaine Caraway bushwacked his way through the forest along the Trinity River this morning to see for himself the place where pig blood from a packing plant turned the river red.

"I am in no way trying to interfere with the city's official investigation of this matter," he told me. But he said residents have been calling him with their own reports of pollution and he needed to check it out with his own eyes.

It was quite an expedition, including a dozen top city officials from the City Attorney's Office, police, Trinity River Office and Water Department. For the most part Caraway led the way, through swamp and dense bush to the banks of Cedar Creek.

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Photos by Jim Schutze
I half-imagined we might find Kurtz out there, the protagonist of Joseph Conrad's novella Heart of Darkness. But then with a jolt I thought, "Damn, I spend so much time out here myself! What if I'm Kurtz?"

Anyway, back in real life, the city raided Columbia Packing Plant in Oak Cliff on January 19 after an amateur aerial photographer caught images of pig blood from Columbia turning a Trinity River tributary red. Since then the Ondrusek family, owners of the plant, have blamed the river-of-pig-blood situation on the city for failing to keep sanitary sewer pipes clear.

Caraway asked to be shown the area in question the easy way, from the packing plant property, but the owners refused permission. So he decided to do it the hard way.

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This is not the outfall authorities believe Columbia used to discharge pig blood into the Trinity. But as I found out, it does trace back to the packing plant's operations.
For my own two bits worth, I was thrilled to see him do it. The danger is that the issue of effluent from unregulated industrial facilities along the Trinity may be be more widespread than this one instance, which was discovered by fluke.

All indications so far are that city staff is taking this particular instance very seriously, but you and I both know what kind of mischief can befall City Hall when people with the right strings in their hands start pulling on them.

Caraway is capable of keeping the kind of focus on this matter that would make it difficult for anybody to sweep it under the rug.

"I'm not talking about anything else up and down the river," he told me. "Right now we need to keep the focus on this particular problem."

I get that. And anyway, making it a far bigger and worse problem is my job. I'm on the case.

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As I traced the outfall back through the woods, I came across trash that includes large pieces of old plastic pipe.
For example, this morning I hiked upstream a distance on Cedar Creek, beyond where the Caraway expedition stopped, and I found a second dark-stained outfall into the creek below the Columbia Property.

I traced the bed of this second outfall up from the bank of Cedar Creek all the way to the back property line of the Columbia Plant. I took pictures to show that the upstream beginning of the outfall is beneath a mountain of industrial trash, broken concrete and timber dumped off the back of the Columbia property.

A debris field of plastic oil cans, broken 10-inch blue PVC pipe and other trash runs from the plant all the way back downhill to the point where it pours into Cedar Creek. Some of the plastic containers are heavily weathered. This didn't start last week.

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Eventually I found the source of the outfall: somewhere beneath this trash heap piled up at the Columbia Packing Plant property line
Soon after city officials raided Columbia, lawyers for the company said in a written statement that the company had always followed the rules and that the pig blood spill was an anomaly, which the company blamed on the city.

I can't really figure how what I found could be blamed on the city, and, actually, I'm kind of an expert on blaming stuff on the city.

But, listen: I only found what I found because Caraway led me out there. I don't know how he fared -- we got separated -- but I came back to my own office reeking, covered with mud and scratches, feeling pretty good about myself, like Captain Willard (Martin Sheen) in Apocalypse Now.

You know, I'm a reporter. I'm used to dirt. But I don't know how many city council members would have done today's trek. I have to take my hat off to Caraway.

And I'm up for it again any time. All we need next time is peanut butter sandwiches and some real scary theme music.

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21 comments
Jollytex
Jollytex

Some day, the real truths and hidden agendas will come out. I don't think that there is any Pigs Intestines in the sewer either, they are too valuable for other uses. Most are sent to the rendering plant for other uses.

Lets leave the sensationalism aside and focus on what the real problem is.

Hslagle821
Hslagle821

 You need to double check the property lines you mentioned, the trash you "traced" doesn't fall in it. http://blogs.dallasobserver.co...  looks like Dwaine moved down the street from Pontiac to 11th.  When will he begin the work that needs to be done in in his own district?

Jollytex
Jollytex

What is Mr. Caraway doing leading this witch hunt, it's not even in his districe

Grumpy Demo
Grumpy Demo

So JimS you got the Don Hill 2.0 with the All Terran option?

Sidewalkastronomer
Sidewalkastronomer

I forgot to add the image date is 3/31/2011. So the blood thing has happen before and not after a heavy rain. It must have not been flowing to long before the photo was taken because there is only a small finger of dark water sticking out in the Trinity river. Must have been a fresh release.

Sidewalkastronomer
Sidewalkastronomer

You don't need no stinking drone to see the blood. Just look at Google Earth sat pictures. You can pinpoint where the blood starts in the creek. It starts 507ft. directly behind the processing building. Check it out!

Kergo 1 Spaceship
Kergo 1 Spaceship

This is wrong; and D'waine should be elected mayor of Oak Cliff, South Dallas and West Dallas!

-Archie and Arthur

Larry
Larry

Save the pig blood.  Drop it by crop duster over Mecca during the Hajj.

I'd pay per view it!!

Paul
Paul

I don't see why people are complaining ... "world class cities" have these features of open sewers ... come on, you know them ... Mexico City, Sao Paulo, New Dehli, Johannesburg, Cairo, etc ...

Wow, I never figured Dallas to ever be able to count itself among the "world class cities" <snark> <snark></snark></snark>

Elsando
Elsando

It all reminds me of my pig Soapsuds - who became a few of my meals. Poor old Soapsuds - long time ago. Forgive me Soapsuds.

Montemalone
Montemalone

I don't get that it's the city's fault for failing to keep the sewer clear, because you're not supposed to put things in that would clog it in the first place. I'm guessing pig intestines and other detritus with a good amount of pork fat would clog things up pretty good.

And aren't the intestines aka chitterlings, and considered a food?

Chris Danger
Chris Danger

Wow, D'wayne finally doing a hard days work, im shocked plainly shocked! ;) Also, Is that local latina news hotness Monika Diaz of WFAA tagging along?? 

Granny
Granny

I love the smell of pig blood in the morning.

Grumpy Demo
Grumpy Demo

So JimS you got the Don Hill 2.0 with the All Terran option?

Darrd2010
Darrd2010

Kudos to Dwaine Carraway.Linda Koop should have been there along with the Mayor.After all, she is head of the Environmental Committee.

Gabe
Gabe

Great, now I'll be humming "The End" for the rest of the day. 

EdS
EdS

Could two wrongs-in-the-water make a right?  Reckon pig blood is fatal to zebra mussels? 

TheRealDirtyP1
TheRealDirtyP1

What a waste for that pig blood to go down a creek. It should be reinterred into our water supply. Circle of life baby!

Doug in DFW
Doug in DFW

Wouldn't gassing up the crop dusters shift resources away from bombing teenage Pakistanis with USA freedom drones?

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