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EPA Moves Forward on Clean-Up of San Jacinto Waste Pits

EPA says it will take 29 months to complete the clean-up.

The entrance to the San Jacinto River Waste Pits site is seen, Friday, Sept. 29, 2017, in Channelview, Texas. The Environmental Protection Agency says an unknown amount of a dangerous chemical linked to birth defects and cancer may have washed downriver from a Houston-area Superfund site during the flooding from Hurricane Harvey. EPA said Thursday night it has ordered the companies responsible for the San Jacinto River Waste Pits site to immediately address damage to a protective cap of fabric and rock intended to keep sediments highly contaminated with dioxins from spreading. (AP Photo/John L. Mone)

The EPA says it has reached an agreement with two companies that will remove more than 200-thousand cubic yards of toxic waste from the San Jacinto River Waste PitsThe EPA says its agreement with the International Paper Company and McGinnes Industrial Maintenance will cost $115 million.

In an emailed statement, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt said the agreement marks the next step in his commitment to the people of Harris County to expedite the remediation of the San Jacinto Waste Pits site.

“EPA will ensure that the remedial design removes all the contamination as quickly and safely as possible and permanently protects the health and safety of the surrounding communities and the San Jacinto River,” Pruitt said.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will help install engineering controls to keep the site safe before excavation begins. The waste from a paper mill was first pumped into the pits in the mid-1960s and is contaminated with dioxins. The chemical compounds are highly toxic and can cause cancer and reproductive and developmental problems.

The remediation will take nearly 2 ½ years to complete. The companies responsible for the clean-up have previously opposed the plan. They say the cap on the pits is secure and attempts to remove the material could result in a harmful spill.

Run-off from the San Jacinto River ends up in Galveston Bay. The Galveston Bay Foundation in a statement said it applauds the clean-up plan.

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Laurie Johnson

Laurie Johnson

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Laurie is a native Houstonian who started her career at Houston Public Media in 2002. Laurie has covered a wide variety of topics for HPM, including the crash of the Space Shuttle Columbia, Hurricanes Katrina and Ike, and numerous elections. She is a frequent contributor to NPR and has been...

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