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Posts published in August 2016

Competing Opinions stir up Waste Pits

237 PAGE ARMY COE REPORT leaves parties arguing over what it concludes.
237 PAGE ARMY COE REPORT leaves parties arguing over what it concludes.

Corps of Engineers report vs Area residents is not settled

The Environmental Protection Agency’s Dallas office released an anticipated study last week of the Alternatives to deal with the Toxic Waste Pits in the San Jacinto River.

The study report is a 237 page volume, authored by Army Corps of Engineers from their Engineer Research and Development Center in Vicksburg, MS. The work method outlined in the report sets out to resolve 19 “tasks” which deal with methods of remediating the Waste Pit toxins. The study investigates the previously delineated Alternatives, known as 1N through 6N, covering no further action, or various cap-in-place solutions, or partial or total removal from the site. It also adds a 6N*, an enhanced removal plan.

The advocacy group known as San Jacinto Citizens Against Pollution, with a website KEEPITCAPPED.ORG, claim that the the report justifies their position to leave the wastes where they are in the river, without removal. Their attorney, Thomas Knickerboker, categorically cites various sections of the report that say capping the site is the safest and most effective option. They also say the report points out that “Dig-and-Haul” poses risks, and that toxic chemicals could leak or be dispersed in the removal process. In the 19 tasks presented in the report, these statements are made. But the complete removal is also recommended as an alternative, if done correctly as outlined in the description.

Therefore by discussing pros and cons of all seven Alternatives, it gives each contesting party opinions and facts to support their position.

Jackie Young, director of the San Jacinto River Coalition, and THEA, two advocacy groups that favor complete removal, said “the report does not go into the problems to date with the current cap. In the five years that (the cap) has been in place, it’s experienced a wealth of problems and caused EPA to do a multitude of repairs. We know that just one big storm, one barge strike, could be devastating for Galveston Bay.”

The escalating controversy comes at a time when the EPA is preparing to announce their draft decision on how to remediate the waste pits. This is due in the next few weeks, then the public will have a 30 day comment period, and the EPA will make the final determination by the end of December, according to EPA representative Donn Walters.

In the meantime, it seems that everyone now has an opinion, and has voiced it. Congressmen Gene Green and Brian Babin have publicly called for complete removal as the only safe solution, and this was joined this week by Congressman Pete Olson. Green took to the floor of the House of Representatives last month, to urge the federal government to use the Superfund laws to hasten the removal.