Work to complete a difficult cleanup project in a Calallen park may begin sometime in December, but county officials are still awaiting word from the state on whether they can proceed or not.

During a Nov. 10 meeting of the Nueces County Commissioners Court, Precinct 1 Commissioner Mike Pusley said he was waiting for a response from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality about the county's recently submitted plan for the cleanup at Hazel Bazemore County Park.

The state had asked the county to revise its original plan to include a proper recommendation from the engineer in charge of the project regarding any endangered species on the site, Pusley said. The first phase of the project, which involved the removal of a large amount of brush from one of the park's ravines, was completed earlier this year ahead of schedule and under budget.

TCEQ investigators found that previous county employees had been improperly dumping the brush into the ravine as a means of erosion control.

In contrast to the speed and cost of the first phase, Pusley said the second phase of the project is likely to bear the bulk of the cleanup's total $400,000 budget and require more time for completion. That phase will entail the removal of hundreds of tires and other materials from another ravine that were dumped there by an as-of-yet unidentified business or individual.

Pusley said the county only has a small three-month window in which to get the project done, which runs from Dec. 15 to March 31. At the end of March, the county would have to cease work due to bird nesting season at the park. It likely wouldn't begin until late 2011, if that's the case, potentially raising the cost of the project, Pusley said.

To complicate matters further, the TCEQ is requiring the county and contractor to halt work and conduct soil samples whenever containers, such as barrels, are found that could have contained hazardous chemicals, Pusley said. Preliminary examinations of the site last year found empty oil drums and even a refrigerator beneath the hundreds of tires.

"We think we can get (the tires) out of there in that (three-month) period of time, but we're not certain," Pusley said. "We're not sure what we're going to find in there once we get started. What complicates this process is…we have to shore up the ravine sides and make sure we're not disturbing any nesting sites. This is much more complicated than anyone realizes."

Pusley said, as of Monday, he had not yet received the go-ahead from the TCEQ that would allow the project to proceed by the beginning of December. However, the commissioner said he was optimistic the approval would be given on time so that the project has a better chance to avoid any potential delays.

"My hope is that we get it done this particular time around," Pusley said.