Residents along the San Jacinto River, and environmental activists will be disappointed in a report issued Monday, Aug. 10th by the Army Corps of Engineers.
They were expecting the report to clearly indicate the need to remove the waste pits and toxins they contained, but instead the report was ambivalent at best, saying that dredging and removal posed as much of a risk to health as leaving the wastes under a secure, well maintained membrane cap.
At the request of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, who are charged with cleaning up Superfund Sites, including the so-called Toxic Waste Pits in the San Jacinto River, the Corps conducted a thorough study of six varied remediation schemes ranging from containing and capping the site, to partial removal, to complete removal of the toxic materials. These toxic materials on the site include dioxins, and other carcinogens with the potential to affect human health. The toxins are contained in a sludge, or sediment that was deposited on the site, from barges filled with waste from paper mills, around 1965 and later.
The EPA has identified Potential Responsible Parties as McGinnes Industrial Maintenance Corp., Waste Management, and International Paper. These so-called PRPs were responsible for constructing the current membrane and rock containment cap now over the waste site, and they have argued that this is all that is required to safely isolate the toxic wastes.
However, the Harris County Attorney, Vince Ryan, and his assistant attorney Rock Owen, have sued the companies in court for damages and to clean up the site. They won a judgement against McGinnes and Waste Management for $29.4 million dollars, but International Paper was excluded from the settlement by a jury. The county is now appealing the ruling on this third company.