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The EPA Develops Timeline To Deal With The San Jacinto River Waste Pits

The agency will have a plan by December and make a final decision in the spring of 2017.

Gary Miller, EPA Remedial Project Manager for the San Jacinto River Waste Pits, presented a report on the agency’s plan for the site during a community meeting held at Channelview’s Martin L. Flukinger Community Center on February 17th 2016.
Gary Miller, EPA Remedial Project Manager for the San Jacinto River Waste Pits (Right), presented a report on the agency’s plan for the site during a community meeting held at Channelview’s Martin L. Flukinger Community Center on February 17th 2016.

The Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, has developed a timeline to deal with the toxic sludge affecting a section of the San Jacinto River, located east of Houston.

The origin of the problem dates back to the 1960s, when a paper mill used the site as a dump for chemicals.

On February 17th, representatives from the EPA held a meeting with residents of Channelview and surrounding areas to update them on the latest developments.

The agency discovered last December the cap that contains the waste, which was installed in 2011 by the companies responsible for the dumping, International Paper Corporation and McGinnes Industrial Maintenance Corporation, was damaged.

The agency ordered the companies to repair the cap, a task that was finalized on January 4th.

The EPA also ordered the companies to implement additional safety measures, such as installing solar-powered video cameras to monitor the site 24/7.

The waste in the pits includes dioxin, a toxic chemical that can cause cancer.

Some of the residents at the meeting, which was held at the Martin L. Flukinger Community Center in Channelview, expressed their concern about containing the sludge, instead of removing it.

“Why are you dragging it out and trying to do a band aid job? Why don’t you take care of the problem?,” Channelview resident Joe Sartain asked the EPA representatives when they started taking questions from the audience.

Although keeping it contained with the cap is one of the options which are being considered by the EPA, it’s also possible the agency will ultimately order the companies to remove the sludge from the site.

That’s what U.S. Congressman Gene Green wants to see. Green’s Congressional District, Texas’ 29th, includes the area where the pits are located.

“I think, ultimately, we need to clean it up. And these interim plans and studying it, they are interim I hope cause I’m gonna keep pushing the EPA to clean that up,” Green noted.

The timeline the EPA has designed entails the agency receiving a report on the safety and resilience of the cap from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in April.

After reviewing the Corps of Engineers’ report, the EPA will write a final version of its own plan for the site, which the agency plans to release in December.

A period of public comment on the EPA’s plan will then begin and the agency anticipates it will make a final decision about the site in the spring of 2017.

However, that’s a sequence that doesn’t satisfy Karla Land, another Channelview resident.

“Ya’ll still talking about timelines. Whose timeline and when is it gonna be fixed?” Land asked the EPA representatives during the meeting.

As for whether the hole in the cap released dioxin into the environment, the EPA’s position is that it is unlikely.

Nonetheless, the agency says it is necessary to analyze more samples from the site to rule out that possibility and has directed the companies to collect those samples.

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Alvaro ‘Al’ Ortiz

Digital News Producer

Alvaro ‘Al’ Ortiz is originally from Madrid (Spain). He worked for several years in his home country and gained experience in all platforms of journalism, from wire services to print, as well as broadcast and digital reporting. In 2001, Al came to the United States to pursue a Master’s degree...

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