When Elmwood got "IRATE" with a toxic neighbor

November 1988 was a surreal month for our neighborhood. Tom Cruise and his film crew from Universal Pictures descended upon Edgefield Ave to film parade scenes for "Born on the Fourth of July," then packed up and left. The movie star paid for a newspaper ad calling Oak Cliff "terrific."

That same month, Joe and Gwen Thompson became aware of plans by food packaging manufacturer Dixie Wax Paper Company, later Dixico Inc. – an Elmwood-area business since 1925 – to request regulatory state and EPA approval for burning hazardous solvents, alcohols, inks and other liquid wastes at its plant on 1300 S. Polk Street. Joe climbed up the creek bank and took photos of drums marked "flammable liquid," vegetation dusted with white powder and a lidless steel drum he found half-buried in the dry creek bed, according to a story in The Dallas Morning News titled "Nightmare In Elmwood." Joe and Gwen met with a professor at UNT who confirmed there would be no safe way to handle all the chemicals they wanted to burn, but the company insisted that it was not polluting the creek and that its incineration methods were environmentally sound. Neighbors pushed back by organizing the group "Individuals & Residents Against Toxic Emissions" (IRATE)

According to Gwen, Dixico was close to getting City of Dallas approval for its permit, but Joe went to City Council with the UNT professor's data and a clear threat. "He told the entire council that if they encouraged the EPA to approve that permit, Elmwood residents would sue the City of Dallas for polluting our neighborhood and all the schools within a 4 mile radius that would be affected," she said.

The company withdrew its application but reapplied for approval the next year. State leaders like Rep. Steve Wolens (D-Dallas) got involved, and the battle culminated in 400 people attending a public hearing. Dixico ultimately withdrew for good, citing too much time wasted on the effort. 

NOT the barrels of toxic waste found at Dixico.

NOT the barrels of toxic waste found at Dixico.

 

In 1996 Dixico sold the building to Delta Industries – which refurbished automotive air conditioners on-site until January of 2015 – and in 2016 the building became Tyler Station, a co-working village now home to the neighborhood's first brewery, Oak Cliff Brewing Co.

The building's polluting days are long gone. Current owner Monte Anderson, who famously saved the Belmont Hotel, told Green Source DFW:

“We are currently looking for efficient solar energy options...In addition, we use recycled materials that are built on site to do all the improvements to the interior; used plywood, steel, etc.  All tenants are required in their leases to participate in the landlord's recycling program and trash cans are provided to separate paper, plastic, metal and trash.”

There are many polluters still in Oak Cliff that could use some community opposition like IRATE. Maybe stories like this will inspire them to take action. 

No longer a nightmare: 1300 S. Polk is now Tyler Station.

No longer a nightmare: 1300 S. Polk is now Tyler Station.

 

Sources:
Tomsho, Robert (November 20, 1988). "NIGHTMARE IN ELMWOOD". The Dallas Morning News.
Stahl, Lori (October 21, 1989). "Dixico scraps Oak Cliff waste plan; neighbors hail decision". The Dallas Morning News.