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Energy & Environment

Harris Co. Urges EPA To Order Cleanup Of Dioxin Pits

The county wants twelve acres along the San Jacinto River removed.


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san-j.jpgA map of the dioxin pits near the San Jacinto River. Click to expand. (Image from EPA)

The Harris County Attorney is urging the Environmental Protection Agency to order the cleanup of a local Superfund site.

Tuesday, Vince Ryan formally made the request for the agency to force the companies responsible for pulling the San Jacinto River to remove the worst-contaminated soil.

If you’ve ever driven across the San Jacinto River on I-10, you’ve passed through one of the most polluted parts of the country.  That’s where International Paper, along with Waste Management, dumped tons of dioxin – a byproduct of paper production.

“The pits themselves are only twelve acres.  But the area around it is several hundred acres that’s got contamination, and the dioxin itself has spread to all of Galveston Bay,” said special assistant Harris County Attorney Terrence O’Rourke. 

Right now, those twelve acres are covered by rocks and plastic tarps. The Harris County Attorney’s office is asking the EPA to order Waste Management and International Paper to dig out and remove the dioxin pits.

“If you take a look at the conditions that were there just a few years ago, and what’s there now, it’s simply unacceptable to have, just, literally, reservoirs of toxic dioxin sitting there, waiting for a hurricane,” O’Rourke said.

The EPA’s National Remedy Review board will consider the county’s request to order the dioxin removal this summer.  A final decision is expected by the end of the year.  In the meantime, Harris County has a lawsuit pending against both International Paper and Waste Management seeking hundreds of millions of dollars in civil penalties.