Cite magazine editor Raj Mankad leads readers on a brief photo tour of “one of the most mind-boggling sites in the Houston area.” Hills, in Pasadena! “Many of the slopes are planted with grass,” he writes. “On one visit several years ago, I saw a horse grazing at the base of one. If I squinted, I could imagine myself in Montana, if not the Alps.“
Better than a waiting-for-snow ski resort, though, these landforms north of Hwy. 225 inside Beltway 8 east of Red Bluff Rd. on the south side of the Houston Ship Channel are made of phosphogypsum. Phosphogypsum is a byproduct of the production of phosphate fertilizers, which took place on the site between 1960 and 2011, under the successive stewardship of a series of companies including ExxonMobil and Agrifos. Why was all this gypsum kept in mountainous piles instead of stuffed into wallboards or something? Well, the EPA doesn’t allow that if the material is too radioactive, which phosphogypsum generally is. So the glowy stuff has to be stored somewhere.
Formerly called the South Phosphogypsum Stack Complex, the 85-acre Pasadena site that created the giant phosphogypsum hills was converted to produce ammonium sulfate in 2011. That production process doesn’t make mountains. Meanwhile, a consent order worked out between ExxonMobil and environmental agencies required the oil company to manage and fund the “closure” of the phosphogypsum stacks. The facility is now owned by Rentech Nitrogen.
- The Alps of Pasadena [OffCite]
- Rentech Nitrogen Pasadena [Rentech Nitrogen]
Photos: Raj Mankad and Tom Colbert
I drove past these last weekend and assumed it was a landfill. Never heard of them before.
Thanks for the information! Now here’s another question: On Scarborough Lane, south of 225, is some grassy hills on the right side of the road. I grew up in that area and always wondered what was on the other side of those “hills”. I seem to recall that there were trees there but those trees were cut down at some point.
Wasnt there a YouTube video and plan about this like five years ago. Something like blue ridge mountain or something.
Ah yes, here it is, but I guess they’re not related
There is another one of these man made hills close to 90 and Oates RD these are huge just might be bigger than the one in Pasadena
I always wondered what that is too. It didn’t look like a normal MSW (municipal waste) landfill, or a C&D landfill. I guess this solves it.
Back in the 70’s we used to ride our motorcycles on these hills. We had no idea the yellow dust we were kicking up could be hazardous to our health!
The hills off of Scarborough are dredge spoils from the Houston ship channel, the hills off of Hwy 90 are trash dumps that have been covered with dirt but are still being filled with trash.
Thanks for answering my question Drod!
God bless America!
Wow…I’ve wondered about those Hills for 20 something years