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Austin, Texas: The Environmental Protection Agency announced its plan today to finally clean up the toxic Superfund site known as the San Jacinto Waste Pits.
The EPA’s decision comes after Hurricane Harvey flooded the site in August, releasing an unknown amount of contaminated soil into nearby floodwaters.
Prior to the hurricane, environmental and community groups had asked the EPA to completely remove the tainted soil because of the risk of toxic material flooding into the San Jacinto River. As part of today’s announcement, the EPA agreed to remove 212,000 cubic yards of this dioxin-contaminated material.
“This is a welcome step forward,” said Kara Cook-Schultz, TexPIRG Toxics Director. “It is great that the EPA is removing toxic chemicals to keep them from ever running free into the San Jacinto River. This is a strong signal that the EPA is willing to fix a deadly problem. But it’s not the only site at risk. The next step is for EPA to remove toxic soil at other flood-prone sites in Texas and around the country.”
The Waste Pits were declared a Superfund site in 2008 after decades of cancer clusters in the nearby neighborhood, and dead fish found in the San Jacinto River. The Superfund site sits under the western bank of the San Jacinto River and it contains dioxin, which according to the World Health Organization, is linked to cancer, miscarriages and learning disabilities. In 2011, the site was temporarily capped with rocks and sediment, but plaintiffs in a recent lawsuit alleged that chemicals leaked to nearby water wells in 2015. The EPA acknowledges that the site was damaged in both 2015 and 2016, and that in 2017, Hurricane Harvey wreaked more damage at the site.
“I was concerned when I saw the site after Hurricane Harvey. The soil was covered in rocks and a tarp, which aren’t enough when our health is at stake. Bottom line -- it was past time to clean this mess up,” said Bay Scoggin, TexPIRG Director, who toured the site soon after the hurricane.
TexPIRG Education Fund released a report detailing the health problems associated with Superfund sites across Harvey-affected areas, including the San Jacinto Waste Pits, here.
In the recent hurricane, over 13 Superfund sites were flooded. The next step is to remove the deadly soil from these flood-prone locations.
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