The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus


Vodicka considering environmental suit

Gary Vodicka says he is considering filing an environmental lawsuit against SMU as an additional part of his ongoing suit against the university.

Vodicka told The Daily Campus that a deposition taken as part of his legal action against SMU has produced an allegation that the area near University Gardens is contaminated and that the UG site should be tested for possible contamination.

Vodicka, who was present when the depositions were taken, made the information available to The Daily Campus.

In a deposition taken Aug. 3, Paul Collins said the levels of benzene and PCE are higher than acceptable in the ground of the Dedman III lot. Collins is a licensed geophysicist and a part of the Tobin trust that previously owned the Park Cities Plaza.

SMU vice president of legal affairs Leon Bennett said he has “no knowledge of any environmental damage the University has caused.”

Benzene is used today as an intermediate to create other chemicals and is also used in the production of rubber, plastic and resin. An Environmental Protection Agency study says there are 100,000 different sites that have benzene soil or groundwater contamination across the United States.

PCE, or tetrachloroethylene, is used to de-grease metal parts in machines or automotives and is used as a solvent in dry-cleaning clothes. Its high density causes PCE to sink through the soil and water and makes it difficult to clean up.

The Dedman III lot was used as recently as 25 years ago as an open area in which SMU cleaned trucks and other heavy-duty equipment before paving it over and using it as a parking lot, according to Vodicka. Calls to Campus Planning and Plant Operations went unreturned.

Vodicka also said that Collins detailed how the “volatile organic compounds” in the ground could have moved into the University Gardens property due to the ground water flow that moves from west to east.

“A prudent course would be for SMU to drill environmental test wells on Dedman III and the University Gardens property,” Vodicka said. “There is reasonable basis that SMU has damaged the [Dedman III] property.”

Vodicka said a professional engineer, or P.E., has told him the wells would need to be monitored on an ongoing basis — not checked one time only.

Bennett maintains the university has been open and forthright about the conditions at University Gardens, and that he is “unaware of any factual basis of any environmental problems based on the allegations of Mr. Vodicka.”

A scheduled mediation session on Aug. 4 between Vodicka, co-litigant Robert Talfel and SMU did not produce any results.

SMU released a statement from Bennett regarding the mediation session: “SMU engaged in the mediation in an effort to explore the option for a resolution of the case. The litigation will proceed in the 101st District Court of Dallas County. SMU is confident that it will prevail based on the merits of its case.”

Vodicka agreed the mediation “didn’t work out” and said he wonders why SMU is so confident.

No date has been set in the state district court for the next hearing in the case.

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