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Editorial: Groundwater solutions for West Dallas development

West Dallas' formerly well-deserved reputation as an environmental wasteland remains a major deterrent to economic redevelopment. At last, the city of Dallas is taking a role in correcting that legacy.

Within a few weeks, the city will have solicited permission from several hundred West Dallas property owners to act on their behalf in a process to guarantee that groundwater beneath these properties would never be used for human consumption.

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In an age of public water systems, this might seem like a meaningless bureaucratic exercise since wells in cities have gone the way of the buggy whip. But setting up the restrictions in advance will allow developers to go about their work without worrying that they will face expensive, lengthy battles over peripheral water issues along the way.

Over the years, heavy industry – including the infamous lead smelters – dry cleaners, auto shops and other businesses have come and gone, some leaving dangerous contamination in the soil. This would pose a remediation nightmare if future property owners had to bring the groundwater up to drinking standards or conduct lengthy studies to show that the groundwater wasn't tainted. So developers steer clear of West Dallas.

However, the city's campaign, the largest of its kind here and permissible under state law, could significantly jumpstart economic redevelopment.

Supporting the effort already are owners of at least 300 properties comprising more than 240 acres of West Dallas, many of which are along or near Singleton Boulevard, a commercial strip that is showing signs of rebirth. As part of the Trinity River project, the city recently widened the boulevard and is committed to Singleton becoming a prominent gateway into these neighborhoods.

After the city secures the landowner signatures, the council will sign off on the arrangement and make its case to state environmental officials in Austin, who we hope will give it a green light.

This newspaper has spent considerable time the last 18 months urging the city to take extraordinary steps to right past wrongs in West Dallas and other neglected neighborhoods. This is an example of the city doing just that, and it deserves praise for this ambitious attempt to lay groundwork for a new West Dallas.

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