EPA Favors Excavation At San Jacinto Superfund Site

The EPA proposes removing a total of about 202,000 cubic yards of contaminated material at a cost of almost $97 million.


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Back in 2013, Harris County officials visit the dioxin-contaminated site along San Jacinto River, east of Houston.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, has announced the proposed plan to remove contamination at the San Jacinto River Waste Pits Superfund site in Harris County.

The EPA proposes removing a total of about 202,000 cubic yards of contaminated material at a cost of almost $97 million.

Carl Edlin, Superfund director with EPA in Dallas, says: “This would entail isolating contaminates, excavating the material, and then removing it to a permitted facility for disposal. Then the area would be covered back with clean fill.”

The pits date back to the 1960’s when a paper mill hired a disposal company, which placed the waste in pits along the San Jacinto River between Channelview and the small town of Highlands. The EPA has identified several hazardous substances in the pits, including dioxins, which are carcinogens.

Jackie Young with the San Jacinto River Coalition says: “Our residents live in fear every day — a potential release from that site, a potential barge strike, when’s the next hurricane gonna strike our area — and now our residents will hopefully no longer have to live in fear.”

The disposal company, McGinnes Industrial Maintenance, maintains that excavation will result in stirring up the material, worsening the river and putting nearby communities at risk for years. A cap was installed to stem the flow of toxins from the pits to the river as a temporary measure. But EPA Regional Administrator Ron Curry says removal of contaminates is better than containment.

“We do believe this plan is the most protective plan for both the communities and the ecosystem. It makes more sense than replacing the current temporary cap with something stronger, that has to be maintained far into the future.”

The EPA plan will be open for public comment for 60 days. The EPA will host a public meeting at Highlands Community Center on October 20th.



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