Energy & Environment

EPA to Decide if Tons of Toxic Sludge Will Remain in San Jacinto River

The remedy for a toxic threat to Galveston Bay could be revealed any day now.

The Environmental Protection Agency is poised to make an important decision regarding the San Jacinto Waste Pits. The Superfund site just east of Channelview will either be permanently capped or relocated.
The San Jacinto Waste Pits.

Since the 1960’s tons of a toxic sludge from paper mills have been buried on the banks and submerged in the waters of San Jacinto River that flows to Galveston Bay. Residents and Harris County officials want the waste pits dug up and completely removed.

“Galveston Bay is one of the most precious estuaries into our  entire nation. And we need to see this site fully removed now rather than pushing it onto further generations,” said Jackie Young, director of the San Jacinto River Coalition.

But the companies involved in paying to clean up the site point to a study released this month by the U-S Army Corps of Engineers. It warned that digging up the site could release some of the toxics into the river. The pits currently have a protective cap of rock and other material, a cap the report said could be beefed up and might contain the waste without removing it.

In a part of statement emailed to News 88.7 from one of the companies involved, McGinnes Industrial Maintenance Corp., the company said:” “(The Corps’ report) clearly spells out very real and measurable risks associated with excavating the site. As the report itself notes: ‘If a storm…occurred during the actual removal/dredging operation, the likelihood of extremely significant releases of contaminated sediment occurring is very high.'” 

The cap would be far less expensive than what the community group wants.

“This is a battle between local communities and corporate giants over money,” the group’s Jackie Young told News 88.7. She says total removal of the waste could cost $100 million whereas reinforcing the existing cap might cost tens of millions of dollars less.  

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s regional office in Dallas tells us it’s “finalizing a proposed plan” and will release it within the next few weeks after then take public comment.

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Dave Fehling

Dave Fehling

Director of News and Public Affairs

As Director of News and Public Affairs, Dave Fehling manages the radio news operation at Houston's NPR station. Previously, he was a reporter at the station, covering the oil & gas industry and its impact on the environment. He won top state honors for in-depth and investigative reporting as well...

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