Energy & Environment

TCEQ Chair Says It’s Unclear If Pollution Leaked From Houston Superfund During Harvey

TCEQ Chair Bryan Shaw said two polluted sites “likely had or may have had” releases during Harvey

EPA dive teams are shown assessing the San Jacinto River Waste PIts Superfund site.

The top environmental regulator in Texas still won’t say whether contaminants leaked from a Houston-area superfund site during Hurricane Harvey.

Bryan Shaw, Chair of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, testified before a Senate subcommittee on Wednesday, telling lawmakers that during Harvey, two polluted sites “likely had or may have had” releases.

At one of them, the San Jacinto River Waste Pits Superfund near Houston, where toxic “dioxins” were exposed to the river, Shaw said the details are still fuzzy.

“What we’ve seen from the testing is it’s difficult to determine how much if any of that material was actually released, but it is possible that those releases did occur,” he said.

In October, the Environmental Protection Agency said toxic materials at the site were “exposed,” and one sample found dioxin levels well above what the EPA considers safe for the site.

The agency’s cleanup plan for the site calls for nearly 212,000 cubic yards of toxic material there to be removed and disposed of.

But, one of the companies involved in the cleanup plan – McGinnes Industrial Maintenance Corp – is opposed to it. The company previously said it is “deeply concerned” that removing the waste could lead to a spill. The company has more recently disputed parts of the analysis the EPA did to develop the plan.

When asked by Houston Public Media, the EPA did not specify how much of the plan’s $115 million price tag the company would be responsible for. EPA Spokesperson David Gray said in an email the agency is negotiating a consent decree that “will facilitate the specific design and then removal.” Gray said the agency expects the negotiations to take six to 12 months, and that design activities could last another six to 12 months before the work to clean up the site begins.

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Travis Bubenik

Travis Bubenik

Energy & Environment Reporter

Travis Bubenik reports on the tangled intersections of energy and the environment in Houston and across Texas. A Houston native and proud Longhorn, he returned to the Bayou City after serving as the Morning Edition Host & Reporter for Marfa Public Radio in Far West Texas. Bubenik was previously the...

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