Energy & Environment

ProPublica: One Of Texas’ Most-Contaminated Former Military Installations Borders Houston Ship Channel

The San Jacinto Ordnance Depot served as an ordnance demolition facility and a chemical weapons site during the 1940s and 1950s. The Defense Department won’t finish cleaning it up until 2084

San Jacinto Ordnance Depot bunker
San Jacinto Ordnance Depot bunker.

A new investigation by ProPublica reveals there are more than 62 military installations or former installations across Texas contaminated by hazardous waste. One of the worst sits roughly 15 miles east of downtown Houston.

The San Jacinto Ordnance Depot occupies nearly 5,000 acres just east of the Sam Houston Ship Channel Bridge. It supplied the Army and Navy during World War II and the Korean War.

“The DoD has declared it a site that has chemical weapons, so we know it has mustard gas at the very least,” said Bay Scoggin, director of the Texas Public Interest Research Group. “And that’s enough of a problem right there obviously. Mustard gas is associated with a variety of neurological disorders.”

The location also served as an ordinance demolition facility, which Scoggin said indicates the likely presence of propellants such as nitroglycerin.

The depot’s location makes it vulnerable to flooding. “Obviously in the context of Hurricane Harvey, we worry about that,” Scoggin said, “as numerous Superfund sites all throughout the Gulf Coast flooded, and that has the potential to not only contaminate the air, as we would always be worried about, but in addition the water, which would create a new host of public health concerns.”

The Pentagon reports it will take less than $7 million dollars to clean up the facility. But it anticipates it won’t complete the work until 2084.

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Andrew Schneider

Andrew Schneider

Politics and Government Reporter

Andrew heads Houston Public Media’s coverage of national, state, and local elections. He also reports on major policy issues before the Texas delegations in the U.S. House and Senate, as well as the Texas governorship, the state legislature, and county and city governments. Before taking up his current post, Andrew...

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